Streaming service giant Amazon has taken quite an interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald. They debuted a miniseries earlier this year, “Z: The Beginning of Everything”. It starred Christina Ricci as Zelda Fitzgerald and David Hoflin as F. Scott. Now comes Amazon’s 9-part adaptation of the iconic author’s final novel (published a year after his death), The Last Tycoon.
The story is set in 1936, and show developer, co-writer and director Billy Ray (“The Hunger Games”, “Captain Phillips”) captures the tone and feel of the time just right with the costumes, production design, and overall manner of the characters. Matt Bomer stars Monroe Stahr, a film producer for Brady-American Pictures.
Just as he did on the short-lived Starz drama “Boss”, Kelsey Grammer sinks his teeth into the role of Pat Brady, Monroe’s studio boss. Pat’s daughter is 19-year-old Cecilia (played by Lily Collins, who knows a thing or two about old Hollywood having recently starred in Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes movie “Rules Don’t Apply”). She’s had a longtime crush on Monroe and wants to get into the business and live a glamorous Hollywood life.
Her father subtly but effectively tells her: “No. Please. Anything but this. That’d kill me.”
Monroe’s wife, a popular actress, died two years ago. Monroe is still mourning her loss, all the while seeing if a film version of her life story can be made. Complications arise when Brady-American must comply with new German law: films with anti-German themes, characters and storylines will not be shown in the country.
True to Fitzgerald’s writing, “The Last Tycoon” is fast and sharp, with a mix of breezy scenes around the studio, effective dramatic elements (including tragedy not long into the first episode) and a firm edge. You warm-up to Bomer throughout episode one. He and Grammer, who’s great as always, go toe-to-toe often. And it’s nice to see Dominique McElligott (terrific as Louise Shepard on ABC’s “The Astronaut Wives Club”) on another miniseries. Here she plays diner waitress Kathleen, who Monroe quickly takes an interest in. (The romances that emerge distinctly feel like the most basic element).
One of the things “The Last Tycoon” does so well right out of the gate reflect on the power of cinema. Do movies matter? A priest gives Monroe a surprising answer. Do films have an impact on the masses or just to the person/people making them? And are they really worth risking your life for?
With polish and pizazz, “The Last Tycoon” is instantly addictive. LCJ Rating: B+
All 9 episodes of “The Last Tycoon” debut on Amazon Prime Friday, July 28th. Total Runtime: 8 hours, 13 minutes. Episodes range from 48-61 minutes each.