Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Evans, Will Patton, Ann-Margret, Mamie Gummer, Jessica Collins, Ellen Burstyn, Peter Gerety, Marin Ireland, Zoe Perry, Barbara Garrick, Zach Grenier, Laila Robins, Susan Blommaert, Carol Sutton
Written by: Tennessee Williams
Directed by: Jodie Markell
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality and drug content
Running Time: 102
Date: 09/12/2008

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2009)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Abyss, Tennessee

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One could probably argue that Tennessee Williams was a writer of his time, rather than timeless. The raw, hysterical emotions that poured out of his work must have seemed refreshing in the repressed 1950s, but now they just seem hysterical. It's telling that prestigious -- rather than personal -- film directors gravitated to his work, people like Kazan, Richard Brooks and Mankiewicz; you'd never see Ford, Hawks or Lang tackling a Williams text.

Now an unproduced, unpublished Williams screenplay has surfaced and the directing chores have gone to a novice, Jodie Markell. She may have studied Williams intently but has no idea how to make this modern film adaptation work. Moreover, instead of the vital, prowling physical stealth of a Marlon Brando or a Paul Newman, we now have a sulking pretty boy, Chris Evans, occupying the male lead. Fortunately Bryce Dallas Howard pours her heart into her role as suffering debutante Fisher and has some mesmerizing moments.

It's the 1920s and Fisher has returned from her education abroad but has become an outcast in Memphis due to her father's malicious business practices. She attempts to wedge herself into the new season's "coming out" parties, and must hire as her date Jimmy (Evans), a poor worker who also happens to be the grandson of a former governor. Most of the action takes place at a Halloween party where Fisher loses her earring and where people take drugs, make out and talk a lot -- most of the talk in the form of complaints, attacks or huge revelations.

Markell treats the material as gospel rather than finding a way to temper it, and it flares up all over the place. In hindsight it probably would have been better for this script to have been published, rather than produced.

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