Show of the week
Because "it might have been" are the saddest words of tongue or pen, the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald always brings a tear to the eye. If the author of The Great Gatsby hadn't hit the bottle, if his wife, Zelda, hadn't suffered her mental breakdowns, how many more classics might he have written? Too bad he died of a heart attack in 1940 at age 44, leaving The Last Tycoon—the Hollywood novel that some say might have been his best—tantalizingly incomplete.
Fitzgerald is such a fascinating figure that you're bound to get wrapped up in this TV movie, which writer-director Henry Bromell (Panic) based on a 1985 memoir by the author's former secretary Frances Kroll Ring. Jeremy Irons is ideally cast in the lead role—if you ignore the traces of his British accent. Dissipated but gallant, Irons's Fitzgerald wins our sympathy with his determination to fight through the alcoholic fog and do some enduring work in what turn out to be his final months. Aiding him in this effort is the faithful—and smitten—Frances (an appealing Neve Campbell), then in her early 20s. It's hard to believe that Frances dares to pout after Fitzgerald criticizes her own attempt at fiction writing or that she comes right out and says, "Scott, tell me about Zelda." Fitzgerald's imaginary talks with his institutionalized wife (Sissy Spacek, in a glorified cameo) add little to our understanding of either character. Still, this is a poignant portrait of an artist at twilight.
Bottom Line: Answer the call