on August 26, 2010
Tennessee Williams is the heart, mind, and voice of the South, and Jodie Markell has made an extraordinarily beautiful film of his screenplay, "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond." Exquisite in its detail and dramatic force, the director does not shy away from Williams's view of a rotting, decadent, romantic Gothic Southland. And in Bryce Dallas Howard (with alabaster skin and raven-black hair) and Chris Evans, she has possibly the most handsome cinematic-couple since Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in "A Place in the Sun."
This film is a great achievement, not to be missed.
on September 4, 2010
Jodie Markell has created a period piece with timeless appeal! This never-before produced screenplay by Tennessee Williams came to light at the right time and in the right hands. Markell's insightful direction and Bryce Dallas Howard's brilliant performance transport the viewer to 1920's Memphis with its juxtaposition of high-class southern charm, architecture and posh parties to the inner turmoil brought about through the accompanying societal expectations. Howard's portrayal of a "fallen" southern belle, Fisher Willow, is both heartbreaking and breathtaking. The high-value teardrop diamond earring she wears which is lost represents Willow's desperate struggle to hold onto her inheritance at all costs -- monetary and personal. The viewer is seamlessly transported into Willow's world of truth vs. lies, genuine vs. fake, awake vs. asleep... as she is forced to face her past and present demons on the journey of discovering her true self (and true love, ie Chris Evans) in the process. You don't have to be a Tennessee Williams fan to get swept away by this film!
on September 12, 2010
I find it strange (or maybe just typical for an antsy media world) that this film was shunned so widely, if not overlooked. Also, there seems to be a recurrent animosity against Bryce Dallas Howard as an actress that I find hard to justify. I can think of few others who are showing such promise at an early age.
And as for the screenplay that is the inevitable draw of the film, it certainly falls canonically among Tennessee Williams' lesser works; yet even his lesser works have always carried much magic, and an idiomatic command of poetic elegance that no American writer since has matched.
We all know well Blanche's ruminations about paper lanterns as a metaphor for magic in the world; people far smarter and wiser than me have called those words among the most deeply felt ever written in the English language. In this film, Fisher Willow has her moment too, hers more nuanced than the melodramatic flourish of Vivian Leigh's delivery. She pines for the company not of strangers, but of people who have meaning, who aspire to art and creation, and so forth. They are words meant to be heard spoken, rather than spit out in this no-name review on the Internet.
So all of that is to say, the best you can do is ignore the shrugging critics and watch this film. It does the legacy of Tennessee Williams justice, it is beautifully shot on a very low budget, and it is a fine performance by a budding actress who absorbs the playwright's intentions elegantly.
on December 9, 2012
I watched The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond without making the connection that I'd seen a Tennessee Williams film before; it is a masterpiece in a day of too few such films.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond really pulled me into the story. I became part of the characters' lives and struggles, and was left profoundly moved. The pace of this remarkable film captures the laid-back South in the early 1900s, but it never drags. This is, however, a movie that the viewer has to pay attention to; it demands that the viewer be engaged, it provokes thought. So much is said in few words as well as with no words. All words, even words spoken in the background, are significant, as are looks, touches, gestures, body language. Nothing is superfluous. Each scene is well-played and necessary. The one soliloquy, with its changed lighting, is superbly done.
Lighting is used to exceptional effect throughout the film. All the scenes are well-planned and well-executed; even the side characters are portrayed effectively. The entire cast was chosen with keen perception; together they achieve a truly memorable film.
The acting, direction, music, cinematography...all are so well done. The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is artistic, moving, and often heart-wrenching. There is also some humor and lightheartedness. I cannot praise the superb acting highly enough, particularly that of Bryce Dallas Howard (as Fisher Willow) and Chris Evans (as Jimmy Dobyne, full name James Dobyne the Fifth) in the lead roles, likewise the flawless instinct and direction of Jodie Markell.
In the case of the main characters, Fisher Willow and Jimmy Dobyne, both have two essentials in common: 1) the importance of strict honesty, and 2) the keeping of promises. Each has a deep sense of honor and strength of character despite their human weaknesses and imperfections.
Similarly, they both seek, almost desperately, to really connect meaningfully with someone. Another commonality is that Jimmy and Fisher are each out of their element in some way and the problems this creates for each is very human.
There are intense moments in this film that could be disturbing and even harmful to some viewers, like the scenes between Fisher and the bedridden, incapacitated and elderly Aunt Addie (her friend Julie's aunt). If one keeps Fisher's and Addie's interaction in perspective, seeing the significance of Fisher's dedication to keeping her promise, as well as the compassion and courage that are part of her character, then there probably won't be a problem. Anyone with a long-standing chronic illness (or who has thoughts of suicide as a way out of suffering) might be badly affected by this part, so proceed with caution or skip this film. Also, Aunt Addie has some powerful words of insight for Fisher who proclaims and clings to her honesty, including significant words about "all the teardrop diamonds in this world, lost or found..."
It is fascinating to watch the dynamics between Fisher and Jimmy, where Jimmy begins by being told by Fisher what to do (since she asked him to be her escort, bought him his suits, and they drive in her car) to a turning of the tables where Jimmy asserts himself with confidence.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is exceptional. It is a cut above, full of layers, contrasts and nuance, a truly transcendent film. It is one worth watching repeatedly, there is so much to notice and see with new eyes. I recommend it highly for emotionally and intellectually mature audiences. It is not a film for families, nor is it a film for those seeking more shallow entertainment, but it is definitely for those who want a movie with depth, who can see beneath the surface and recognize what's there.
on September 10, 2010
"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," is a real gem but it is not for everyone. If you are not a big Tennessee Williams fan, you probably will not like it. If you are unfamiliar with Tennessee Williams, then you are better off watching "A Streetcar Named Desire," or "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Admittedly, this is not one of Williams' best stories. The reason the film works so well is the acting and directing.
I had seen Bryce Dallas Howard in a few other films but they did not prepare me for this absolutely thrilling performance. This is not just the best performance of the year but it is the best performance in the past several years. She brings the character of Fisher Willow to life the way that Vivian Leigh did for Blanche DuBois. In many ways Fisher Willow is like a young version of Blanche.
Fisher is a typical Williams' heroine. She initially comes off as a selfish, self centered, Southern Belle but underneath she is much more fragile than anyone suspects. Bryce Dallas Howard is able to bring this out with such complexity and nuance that we can sympathize with a character that we should not care about so much. Even in her best moments she seems as though she could shatter at any moment.
This performance alone is enough reason to see this film.
The story follows the familiar themes covered in other Tennessee Williams stories: loneliness, loss of wealth, fall from grace, and battling interior demons. The teardrop diamond could represent the wealth and status her family once had. It is not just a $5000 jewel. It is a symbol of what her family once was and what was once the old South.
Jodie Markell does an impressive job directing. Her style is old school. She knows when to let the camera linger and when to let the scenes play out. The film does not seem rushed and it never drags. The cinematography is gorgeous with burnished orange dominating the color palette.
"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," may not be one of the four best movies made from a Tennessee Williams story but it is not far behind. This is mandatory viewing for any fan of Tennessee Williams.
on October 22, 2011
It says much about the film industry over the last twenty-five or so years, and none of it good, that a screenplay of the quality of The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, written by arguably the greatest and certainly among the best-known playwrights of the last century, has nonetheless lain neglected for decades. The good news is that it now comes to us in a version that must surely please its author. Bryce Dallas Howard is electrifying as Fisher Willow, a heroine as complex and engaging as any that Tennessee Williams ever created, and Chris Evans gives her excellent support. I was involved with their struggle from beginning to end, and actually found myself sighing with relief when they finally found each other! Jodie Markell's direction is flawless, splendidly evoking the sleepy yet dangerous languor of Williams's south. One of Markell's strengths as director is her evident recognition that Williams was not only a dramatist but also a poet. Her film is sustained by her sense of Williams's poetry and is itself poetic. We are in in debt to her, to her cast, and to all who worked with her.
After reading John Lahr's biography, "Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh" (2014), I became so interested in Williams that I read or reread many of his works and watched several of the movies his writings inspired. I have posted reviews of many of Williams' works here on Amazon. At the time I read Lahr and explored Williams, I was unaware of Williams' screenplay, "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" and of the film that resulted in 2009. Lahr does not mention the work in his book. Williams wrote "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" in 1957, and the script was either forgotten or deemed not worth pursuing. At about the same time, Williams wrote another original screenplay, "Baby Doll" which became a film infamous in its day under the direction of Elia Kazan.
It is fortunate that Williams' screenplay has been preserved and filmed. Those who love or are interested in Williams' writing will have this movie to see which otherwise would have been lost. It is unlikely that this screenplay will be filmed again in the foreseeable future, and this movie is a more than good --- in fact it is a fine rendition that does the script credit. The film was independently produced and the product of several years' effort. A young Jodie Markell directed the movie with Bryce Dallas Howard in the leading role of the young socialite, Fisher Willow, and Chris Evans playing the role of her escort, Jimmy Dobyne V, the grandson of a former state governor whose family has fallen on hard times. The film received mostly negative reviews when it was released in 2009 and did not play in many theaters. I think it will have staying power.
The movie is set in the Mississippi Delta in 1923 and was filmed entirely in Louisiana. The period settings are beautiful and convincing and include poor hardscrabble fields, lush mansions, and jazz clubs. The accompanying film score of jazz, pop, ragtime, and a bit of classical piano adds to the story and the setting. Both the leads could have brought more passion to their roles, but their characters and their stories come through. Supporting actress Ellyn Burnstein offers a highly dramatic, brief performance is an opium-addicted, dying elderly woman.
In the story, Fisher Willow is a highly wealthy, educated, independent young woman who is shunned by her society because of the reckless actions of her father and because of her own high spirits. She hires young Jimmy to be her escort at social events. Jimmy's father is an alcoholic and his mother is institutionalized. Fisher wants Jimmy to be more than her escort to parties, but he resists her advances. At a fashionable Halloween party, Fisher loses an expensive diamond earring. The loss of the teardrop diamond becomes the occasion for Fisher and Jimmy to sort out what will be the nature of their relationship. The film shows Williams' treatment of the South with its decadence, sexual undertones, and repressions. There are scenes of illicit sexuality, drug use, and extensive alcohol use. The movie captures a feeling of place and sadness and of the search for love and meaning characteristic of Williams' writing. The pacing is a little slow in places, but the script is Williams' and the movie is effective.
This is a small screenplay and film and would never be confused with a major work of Williams. Small slight things can still be beautiful as for example a Scarlatti sonata, a Schubert song, or a teardrop diamond earring. This is a lovely film in its story and atmosphere.. It is delicate and intimate and repays close attention. As with so much of Williams, the characters are frail underneath their exteriors. This is a fragile work, but it is successfully done, and moving. I was grateful for the opportunity to see this film here on Amazon Instant Video. The quality of the print was excellent.
on April 13, 2015
This is the first posthumously made adaptation of a Tennessee Williams work. Being a fan of all things Tennessee Williams, I am a bit biased. But, the film is well made, well cast, and pure Tennessee Williams.
If it had been made 40 years ago with Elizabeth Taylor, it would be a classic.
But, the millennials do not understand Tennessee Williams and a film without computer generated special effects just does not bring them into the theatre.
If you loved the classic 15 movies made during Tennessee Williams' life time, you will appreciate if not love this film.
This is a well made film, the story is interesting and the characters are almost three dimensional. In some ways, I think this might be better suited to the stage, even though it was written as a screen play.
Fisher is a southern belle, the heiress of two fortunes who happens to be cursed with having a father who is known as a murderer locally. Jimmy is the grandson of a former governor, but that is not something that easy to tell as his father his a drunk and his mother is in an asylum. Fisher decides to hire Jimmy to be her escort to various social events to avoid having to deal with her social pariah-ness.
The problem is that Fisher actually cares more for Jimmy that she was willing to admit. While Jimmy is too cautious of Fisher to feel that way for her.
The performances in this are great. Ellen Burstyn is fantastic as a woman who could be Fisher's future self. She gives Fisher some fabulously sassy advice. Ann Margaret plays Fisher's aunt (owner of the Teardrop Diamond earrings), its rather fun to see her being so prim and proper. Bryce Dallace Howard nails it as Fisher who is a very complex character. In the hands of a lesser actor Fisher could have come off as very unsympathetic and bratty. Instead we are privy to a very layered character (via Howard's layered performance). She is both vulnerable and strong, confused and determined, overwhelmed and overwhelming. Its really amazing to see. Chris Evans as Jimmy does a good job of being a sort of moral center for Fisher and himself, he is self righteous and confused but also sees Fisher with both eyes. She may not be someone that he thinks he can love be certainly he shows he is someone who cares for her. He does a good job of portraying how Jimmy wants her to be a better person, for herself.
on April 29, 2015
Second-tier Tennessee Williams is light years and heads-and-shoulders and every other cliche of the type AHEAD of 99% of today's "screenplays." Director Jodie Markel has produced a lovely film with fine performances from leads Bryce Dallas Howard as the most interesting of the vapid "Southern belles" depicted and Chris Evans as the Everyman down the road. The story is set in Mississippi but beautifully filmed in Louisiana. Williams fans will recognize the world depicted--- a 30s rendition of the Memphis-to-MS-Delta "society" world from whence came other great Williams characters-- specifically Maggie the Cat and her odious sister-in-law Mae (Sister Woman)/