The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond

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Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO - "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" is a must-see for admirers of Tennessee Williams. The film has been made from a published though never produced screenplay he wrote in the '50s for director Elia Kazan with Julie Harris in mind for the role of Fisher Willow, the reluctant Southern debutante. Sadly, that's the only group for whom "Teardrop" is a must-see. The story is a sketchy, dramatically muddled rumination on familiar Williams themes about the Old South and its brave, beautiful, rebellion women always on the brink of love, suicide or madness. Williams was infamous for rewriting plays and stories for year so the guess here is the "Teardrop" was at best a second draft.

On further thought, you might want to include admirers of the emerging talent of Bryce Dallas Howard among the must-see crowd. Howard gives an eye-catching performance as Fisher, whose honesty is taken for brazen behavior. She is a refreshing breeze that blows through an otherwise stale melodrama about stuck-up debutantes, confused males and ancient aunts trapped in a world that no longer really exists.

Fisher's dad committed a crime that has badly tarnished the family name, causing much of Memphis society to reject her debut. Her paid-for escort is the handsome farmhand, Jimmy (Chris Evans), who supposedly had a governor in the family. Alas, that family has fallen on hard times as dad is a lush and mom is in the nut house.

Jimmy avoids Fisher's attempts at seduction, even dallying with an old flame from "the wrong side of the tracks," before Fisher makes her final pitch. There's much bother at one party about a lost diamond earring, freighted with almost as much symbolism as that glass menagerie from another Williams story.

Tennessee-born Jodie Markell, making her feature debut with this film, says she felt a strong emotional connection to Fisher and to this portrait of Southern society of the '20s, hidebound to tradition even as much of the post-war world has throwing caution to the wind. You sense this in the loving shots of decaying plantation buildings, the moon on the river and willow trees bending to the wind as her heroine searches for a love that will forever be denied her. All Markell really needed was for her writer to be alive to write another draft or two.

Production companies: Constellation Entertainment
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Evans, Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margret, Mamie Gummer, Will Patton, Jessica Collins.
Director: Jodie Markell.
Screenwriter: Tennessee Williams.
Producer: Brad Michael Gilbert.
Executive producers: Ron Gilbert, Catherine Kellner.
Director of photography: Giles Nuttgens.
Production designer: Richard Hoover.
Music: Mark Orton.
Costume designer: Chrisi Karvonides.
Editor: Susan E. Morse.
Sales: IM Global.
No rating, 102 minutes.

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