WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Writer/director Henry Bromell's Last Call is a warmly effective look at waning life of the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald—the final days when he engaged in a massive struggle with alcoholism and tried to squeeze out one last masterpiece in the form of The Last Tycoon, an ultimately unfinished novel. I was surprised by the effectiveness of this film, given that it was created for Showtime cable TV.
Based on Frances Kroll Ring's memoir Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film provides an interesting perspective. Last Call is told from the point of view of Frances (Neve Campbell), who was Fitzgerald's personal secretary during the final months of the author's life and who was hired to type the dictated novel. It's from this new perspective that we watch Fitzgerald wrestle with his many inner demons to try to produce his novel.
Jeremy Irons portrays Fitzgerald, and at first I was put off by that strange casting (considering that there's no resemblance physically or vocally), but Irons does manage to bring across an appropriate depth and sadness. Campbell is first-rate in Last Call, delivering the best performance I've yet seen from her. And even though the characters resort to that hoary device of reciting poetry to each other to establish a literary kinship, the actors are so attuned to their roles that you forgive them.
Be warned that Last Call plays very loosely with the facts. You might say the film is "inspired" by the last days of F. Scott Fitzgerald. We're essentially viewing the story from a perspective that's three times removed. When Fitzgerald starts hallucinating visions of his wife Zelda (Sissy Spacek), you might start frowning at this production. But the spirit of the thing feels right.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Showtime presents Last Call in a terrific full-frame transfer of the film's original cable-TV broadcast. The low-key color palette—at times almost sepia in nature—is reproduced faithfully, giving the film an appropriately drained and nostalgic look. Detail is exemplary, and blacks are right on. Despite the film's washed-out look, it boasts scenes of magnificent noirish effectiveness. The film can be quite dark at times, so I recommend watching it in a very dark room.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc defaults to a Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation that's centered at the screen. Stereo separation is practically nil, despite opportunities such as rainy nights and crowded dance halls. But then again, this is mostly a quiet, dialog-centric film, and on that count, the soundtrack does a fine job, accurately and cleanly reproducing dialog.
But the disc also offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that really opens things up, separating the sound presentation across the front and providing ambient noise in the rear.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
First up are Filmographies and Interviews with the three main stars, Jeremy Irons, Neve Campbell, and Sissy Spacek. The interviews mostly concern the real-life history of the fictionalized events of the film.
You also get an Interview with the Author Frances Kroll Ring, an extremely short piece in which she has a few words to say about her reaction to the film.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Not a bad film at all. A modest array of supplements make this one at least worthy of a rental.