Fitzgerald (TV Movie 2002) Poster

(2002 TV Movie)

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Irons at his finest
Rogue-3223 May 2002
The always-superb Jeremy Irons is once again brilliant, this time as American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, living out his final days - ravaged, raw, tragic and above all, sympathetic, even (or especially) at his worst. A shattering performance, the kind only Irons can give. The movie is extremely well-conceived; as a writer myself, I truly appreciate a movie about the ACTUAL WRITING PROCESS of being a writer, which is hardly ever depicted on screen - for fear, perhaps, of being boring. This film is anything but.
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Afternoon(s) of an Author
ecjones19514 December 2004
One reason I never married is that I never found any man with the intellect, sense of sporting good fun, dignity and refinement of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oh, many a former beau could swill gin with Scott's ferocity, but they did not share his grace, sense of honor, nor anything remotely approaching his talent. Scott Fitzgerald was not only an extraordinary storyteller, although he admittedly drew his material from a limited number of sources; he was also a wordsmith who knew no peer. These were his greatest gifts, and despite his many foibles, they never deserted him.

In April 1939, stenographer Frances Kroll came into his life to find Fitzgerald a nearly broken man. A self-described "pathetic old man," he was a chronic alcoholic barely keeping himself afloat financially, and he was only 42 years old. He hired her as his secretary for the novel he hoped would be his pass to literary redemption. Fitzgerald's brand of fiction was now considered passé, and he spent his good days cranking out rewrites of other people's scripts at MGM. Fitzgerald sporadically sold short stories to magazines back east -- for fees half what they brought when his vogue was at its height -- but the checks kept the wolf from the door. This "hack work," as he termed it, allowed Fitzgerald to keep his beloved but hopelessly mad wife, Zelda, in a mental institution in North Carolina and their daughter, Scottie, enrolled at Vassar.

Whatever one may think about Fitzgerald's drinking, and the crippling effect it had on his literary output, (and his relationships with publishers, friends and lovers), it never interfered with his ability to care for Zelda and Scottie. His dignity would not allow him to move Zelda to a state institution or Scottie to a public school.

Fitzgerald's pride motivated him to play the breadwinner for his small family, and this he did until the end. In "Last Call," Jeremy Irons's extraordinarily nuanced, elegant performance as Fitzgerald elevates the work of everyone around him. Obviously, Irons listened to the rare audio recordings of Fitzgerald's readings of the poetry of John Keats and John Masefield to get a grasp on Fitzgerald's Midwestern vowels and cadence. I was not very familiar with Neve Campbell's work prior to this film, but she won me over. For about 80% of the film's running time, Irons and Campbell occupy the screen alone, and she holds her own beautifully against the far more experienced actor.

In her autobiography, "Against The Current," Frances Kroll Ring does not specifically mention having literary aspirations of her own at the time she knew Scott. But clearly she was inspired by watching his creative processes unfold before her eyes, and she came to see that Scott's novels were not purely mercenary enterprises. "Last Call" covers roughly the last two years of his life, during which he wrote all that we have of "The Last Tycoon." Frances learns from Scott that he is determined to write the definitive, cynical exposé of Hollywood. He has based his protagonist, Monroe Stahr, on the doomed Irving G. Thalberg, the MGM Artistic Director whose story was already the stuff of legend.

Fitzgerald was fascinated by Thalberg, who was gifted at reading public taste, yet able to reconcile his creative genius with an eye towards the bottom line. Plagued with heart problems throughout his short life, Thalberg died in 1937 at age 37 of pneumonia.

Fitzgerald must surely have identified with Thalberg's fall from early grace. In 1932, Thalberg suffered a major heart attack. While undergoing a lengthy recuperation, MGM essentially put Thalberg out to pasture, just as Fitzgerald felt his publishers and the reading public had done to him.

Although Thalberg and the fictional Stahr meet different ends, many elements from Thalberg's life, namely his struggles to combine art and commerce, are expertly woven into the story of Fitzgerald's hero. As Scott struggles to get a handle on his complex character, he increasingly relies on Frances's innate good judgment to help him frame scenes and develop dialogue.

How can this possibly make for good drama? The screenwriter and director must avoid being heavy-handed or pedantic, and Henry Bromell succeeds on both counts. But what lends these seemingly unfilmable scenes an amazingly vitality is, again, the acting of Irons and Campbell. One long montage is wordless: Scott paces the floor, his bathrobe trailing its sash, throwing out ideas to Frances, who patiently puts his words into shorthand.

They nod and smile at each other; we "see" the pages of the novel taking shape. This scene occurs some months into their partnership, and it is now clear to Frances, and to us, that she gets it.

A minor shortcoming I find in "Last Call" is the visions of Zelda (Sissy Spacek) that come to Scott periodically. I do not find them particularly illuminating. Illuminating indeed, in the life of Frances Kroll Ring, were those brief months more than 60 years ago when she sat at the feet of a genius. Scott Fitzgerald was a wrecked genius to be sure, but one who made every effort to be a better man when in her presence. He asked a great deal of her in life: surreptitiously disposing of his gin bottles, patching up his lovers' quarrels with Sheilah Graham, doing his bookkeeping and his shopping. After his death, preparing Scott's funeral arrangements fell to Frances, being neither insane wife, teenage daughter nor illicit lover. It was Frances who insured "The Last Tycoon" would find its audience. And finally, it is Frances Kroll Ring who looks winsomely gratified by a display of Fitzgerald's books in a Borders bookstore window in the final frames of "Last Call."
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A beautiful film about the torments of being an artist
Carson Trent16 March 2006
A movie about what it is like to be a writer, about the process involved, the long hours and days you have no idea if you're actually going to finish whatever it is that you write, or the total lack of inspiration that can go on for years. This process is seldom shown in movies, as it is totally unattractive, and of very twisted entertainment value. The long hours of drinking, sleeping late, staring into ones self and looking into the eyes of their inner demons. And most of all a movie about the fact that writing is a calling, along with everything that comes with it.

Jeremy Irons is a very versatile and sensitive actor, which can deliver a believable and dramatic interpretation, playing the widest range of characters, and at the same time remain his charismatic self, even when he plays a less likable character, as it is the case here, Sissy Spacek is always top notch and Neve Campbell proves to be more than a teen movie idol.
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Star gives star performance in made-for-TV movie
trimmerb123413 October 2008
Does Jeremy Irons ever give less? This is currently being shown on the British Movies24 channel. Jeremy Irons gives a perfectly judged performance, perfect for every expression, spoken word or even glance. He had though good material to work with - its basis in the recollections of one of the films main protagonists, his secretary, Frances Kroll, who herself was a would-be writer. The direction too seemed to perfectly follow the mood - even Frances' unspoken thoughts especially expectations. The only thing to jar was that at these moments of unspoken thoughts, a song would be played in the background spelling out exactly these unspoken thoughts.

Neve Campbell was excellent as Frances - in her playing perhaps her attitude was a little wrong - he the great writer, she rather mousy unknown secretary would have been perhaps a bit more reverential. But it may be Frances Kroll's writing which reveals the true nature of their relationship, that moment nearly at the end when he stops, turns to her and she (and the audience) could imagine an offer of marriage yet he "merely" wants to say something about writing. Overall it is a rich and revealing biography from someone who was both closely involved as well as being a good and honest writer. Perhaps this is why Jeremy Irons gave it his best shot.
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A well-written story about a...well,...writer
ween-320 August 2002
Checking the credits on writer/director Henry Bromell, it seems that we have someone who's written for "Chicago Hope", "Homicide" and "Northern Exposure". So a class act chooses to write about a screenplay about a writer, and the results are about what you'd expect. Pretty exceptional stuff. Jeremy Irons tosses his hat into the ring for an Emmy nom here. Another standout performance.

However..the big surprise to me is the performance of Neve Campbell. Get this girl off the "Scream-4" set and into some period pieces in a big hurry, fellas. She's ready to rock and roll. Pair her up with a decent script and an Oscar-caliber actor or two and she holds her own rather nicely, thank you.

Thanks to Showtime for the "Last Call" 15-minute addendum with Irons, the omni-present George Plimpton and Frances Kroll Ring briefly discussing F. Scott's greatest hits.
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Irons and Campbell, superb together
George Parker3 June 2002
Irons breathes life into F. Scott Fitzgerald in this superb accounting of the last months of the renown writer's life during the tenure of his youthful secretary, confidant, and protege Frances Kroll (Campbell) who later penned a memoir of their time together. An excellent story of unrequited love and a good watch for those into the work of either Fitzgerald, Irons, or Campbell with some interesting didactics for novice writers.
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Worth it for the performances
ofumalow14 May 2013
This portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald's last days--as a wreck, battling alcoholism and trying to write "The Last Tycoon" with considerable help from his much younger new secretary--has some digressive scenes in the middle but is primarily intelligent and involving. Jeremy Irons is excellent (though at times his Yank accent can be a bit overdone) as the past-prime author, but the surprise is that Neve Campbell (whom I haven't very often been all that impressed before) does an excellent job as the secretary seduced into this sickly, washed-up but still highly intelligent and sometimes very charming man's spell. Sissy Spacek is effective enough as Zelda Fitzgerald, although her occasional appearances as a taunting/nagging phantom of sorts are a screen writing device that doesn't totally come off. It's a fine perspective on Fitzgerald that doesn't cast him as some kind of saintly victim but gives full weight to his talent and personal weaknesses.
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Great Acting
joaocruzferreira21 July 2007
In "Last Call", Jeremy Irons is, in short, F. Scott Fitzgerald himself. Very much like Phillip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote", Irons has captured every mannerism and the speech of the controversial writer.

A level of "classiness" is attained, often on accord of the dynamic chemistry between Irons and Campbell, who in my opinion surprised Hollywood with this great performance in an extended supporting role. Sissy Spacek was also impressive, despite her only being in the film for about twenty minutes, her appearances are very memorable, and she is absolutely magnificent.

Other than the acting by Irons, Campbell and Spacek, there's really nothing that jumps out about this film. However it is an interesting look into the life of the influential and controversial writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. 6/10
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F. Scott Fitzgerald as Barton Fink
grainstorms29 September 2013
This is a quiet little movie that will break your heart, like everything to do with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Jeremy Irons plays an older Fitzgerald, tired and desperate and sick. (Not that old, of course; he's only in his 40's.) He's living the expensive yet shabby winding-down existence of a Hollywood Next Best Thing who has turned out to be Just Another Flop. The Golden Boy of the '20s is now sadly tarnished. Worst of all, his usually reliable muses, the women in his life, are no longer delivering inspiration right to his door.(Look for the great Sissy Spacek as she weaves lustrous silk from the flimsiest of spiderwebs.) Fitzgerald's wonderful golden talent is sputtering like a marquee light bulb ready to blink out for good. But he still has something to say – if he can only get it out. Enter Neve Campbell as a sidewalk sparrow, bright-eyed, on the lookout for crumbs, timid yet bold. Will she be able to re-ignite his creativity? If Jeremy Irons is remarkable in this picture, Neve Campbell is a revelation. A breathtaking beauty, she also shows herself to be a superb actress, able to hold her own and more with the silken-voiced Irons. This movie (also known as "Last Call") deserves to be part of every college course on 20th Century American writers.
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A pretty good movie!!!!=-}
bewitched200425 May 2002
Neve Campbell is my favorite actress of all times. I love her in Scream trilogy and rest of her movies. She is an incredible actress and I think she should get more credit for it. This movie is different from the rest of her movie she star in. When I saw the preview i didn't think it was going to be that good. But I always try to like because Neve in it. But wrong the movie was very very interesting. I like learning about stuff that happen in the past. People don't understand how life was back then. I always hear people complain how hard life was. But if we were the people in this movie we can see that it was that easy back then. It very amazing how they went through in the movie they have fun times and emotional times and upset times so on. A very good Drama Jeremy Irons did a brilliant job in here and is very believable. Neve Campbell did an excellent job in here I wouldn't say it was her best of all her movie but it in top category. I always try to be like her. She change my life and I never will forget that, I give this movie 9 out of 10 Neve is so Cool in everything she does!!!!!!!!!!
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