The Last Tycoon: Season 1 – Review

The Last Tycoon’s first season is now streaming on Amazon Video.

Amazon video’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, is currently up for streaming for those with Amazon Prime. Over the course of the show’s nine episodes, viewers are treated a beautifully designed show, with many good performances. Set in Hollywood in the 1930s, the series has multiple sub-plots, which made the show entertaining, but also prevented exploring many of the characters in depth. While it kept my interest and attention, I found myself questioning whether I actually liked what I was watching.

The main story line follows Hollywood’s Golden Boy Monroe Stahr (really Milton Steinberg), played by Matt Bomer as he battles his boss Pat Brady, played by Kelsey Grammer. While both are ultimately out for the success of Brady-American Pictures, they each also have their own interests to protect. They argue over business decisions, but there is also an underlying tension between them. Monroe is well-liked and is pitied because of the loss of his wife, actress Minna Davis. Pat often has to assume the role of the boss/bad guy, but ultimately it is he who bears responsibility for the studio’s financial stability, in danger because of the Great Depression and competition from the larger movie studios.

Other plots involve the relationships between Brady and his wife, Rose (Rosemarie Dewitt) and her affair with Monroe; Brady’s college age daughter, Celia (Lilly Collins) and her desire to produce films with a conscience; and Monroe’s new found love with Kathleen Moore (Dominique McElligott), a waitress he wants to turn into a movie star.
All this plays out against the background of the rise of the German Reich and their influence in Hollywood (called Hollywoodland on the sign in the 1930s). As a Jew, Monroe tries to do what he can not to give in to their demands, and wants to find ways to help European Jews. The show was a good period piece, exploring the attitudes that existed back then.

Special mention needs to be given to the costuming, designed by Mad Men veteran Janie Bryant. The gowns and hats were exquisite, providing a sense of Hollywood royalty. The sets depicted the grandeur as well.

I think the issue with The Last Tycoon was with character development. While the acting is good, viewers are not left with a sophisticated picture of the character; and I was left feeling as if the show was “flat”. While the show has many twists and turns, you could frequently predict what was going to happen next. As the show approached the end, I was actually in disbelief. You could see the final scene coming from a million miles away and upon reflection, I realized that was true too often in earlier episodes. Unfortunately, the end soured the show for me. While I had enjoyed the actors’ portrayals throughout (particularly the female performances), I walked away feeling that the show was too trite and clichéd.

I give The Last Tycoon a B.