‘Teardrop’ revisits Tennessee Williams — for good and bad
2.5 out of 5 Stars
LOSS OF A TEARDROP
DIAMOND. With Dallas Bryce Howard,
Chris Evans, Ann-Margret. PG-13; 100 mins.
Opens today at the Angelika Film Center,
It’s astonishing to realize how, even after 65 years, Tennessee Williams still sounds just like Tennessee Williams … and no one else. So watching Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, a new film based on an unproduced screenplay of his, is almost like entering a time machine: the same magnolia dripped dialogue emerging from frivolous young women who are both strong-spirited and victims of social convention.
The question is: Does this mark a return to the classics, or an anachronism as outdated as hoop skirts and beehive hairdos?
The answer may depend on your own tolerance for the insular world of cotillions and complex but unfathomable characters — characters that, through no one’s efforts but Williams’, have become clichÃ©s in themselves: The young scion of a once-proud family (Chris Evans) is uncomfortable being dressed in a tuxedo and paraded around town on the arm of a spoiled heiress (Dallas Bryce Howard), while elderly matriarchs (Ann-Margret, Ellen Burstyn) cluck opposing ideas about family, honor, love, money and the virtues in life. (Much of the writing seems like discarded bits of dialogue from other Williams plays.)
If these stock issues have become tired, they are, legitimately, still very vivid and instantly, irreplaceably the work of one of our greatest playwrights.
Howard has the porcelain placidness of a good Williams heroine, but not much charisma, while Evans’ chief asset (his physique) remains hidden under suits, despite discussions about a strip-search occasioned when he is suspected of stealing a valuable earring.
Director Jodie Markell imbues the look — 1920s Memphis — with the gummy, gauzy haze of a summertime reverie, but stylistically it’s all as florid as ridiculous party banter. No one has improved upon Williams, but Williams didn’t always improve upon himself, either.
Loss of a Teardrop Diamond was lost for decades; it’s disappointing that it’s discovery doesn’t mean more.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 15, 2010.