Actress turned director Jodie Markell's feature filmmaking debut may be set in the early 1920s. However, her decision to shoot the recently discovered screenplay penned by one of America's greatest playwrights anamorphically, subtly transports us back to the 1950s, which also happens to be the decade that found the strongest adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays gracing the big screen in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
The result is a cinematographically exquisite independently made production that at times is just as stagey as the Actors Studio fueled melodramas from the era in which Williams wrote The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond.
Having broken through a frustrating period of writer's block by working on a piece he mentioned in his journals that he actually enjoyed creating, Diamond finds Williams in the same terrain that the scribe knew best.
Although it's not quite as well-developed as some of his masterpieces, Diamond delivers another Southern set opposite sides of the tracks romance bursting with hedonistic sensuality, dysfunctional relatives and painful secrets that are epitomized in another rebelliously feisty, irresistible heroine.
Bryce Dallas Howard lights up the screen as the recently returned, foreign educated Fisher Willow who agrees to her relatives' insistence to take part in the new season of “coming out” society parties regardless of the fact that she's older than most of the other girls.
Struggling to overcome her family's plans for her future and the community's incessant talk about her estranged father's decision to dynamite land that inadvertently led to multiple sharecropper deaths and Mississippi River inspired flood destruction, Fisher Willow decides that she'll do what's expected of her but carry it out her own way.
Ignoring the arrangement that her aunt (Ann-Margaret) had set up for the elder woman's lawyer beau to escort her niece to various balls, as the movie opens, Fisher propositions the young, handsome, Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans) to accompany her instead.
While the two couldn't be more different in terms of economic class, what Jimmy lacks in finances, he makes up for with his family's good name, being that Jimmy's grandfather had once served as the governor of the state.
Therefore, unlike the black cloud circling around Fisher Willow's relations following her father's deadly actions, when it comes to Jimmy, there's little to which others can object overall and sure enough, Jimmy obliges the beautiful socialite, knowing full well that in addition to their association being a mere business arrangement that Fisher is unmistakably in love with him.
Exactly how Jimmy feels about Fisher in return remains a mystery throughout. Their relationship fluctuates and she remains dominant over him, which isn't that hard to do given the sheer explosive force with which Howard attacks her role versus the rather meek portrayal turned in by Chris Evans in Howard's best performance since working for Kenneth Branagh in As You Like It.
However, even though there's an undeniable chemistry between them, everything changes when Fisher loses one half of her aunt's ten thousand dollar pair of teardrop diamond earrings upon arriving at the Halloween party hosted by her friend (a miscast Mamie Gummer).
After mere inquiry finds speculations morphing into accusations, Jimmy grows cold to the way that Fisher seemingly changes on a dime in her treatment of him and even a simple apology on her behalf reinforces the chasm of class differences between them.
And while at times Markell goes a little too far in punctuating Williams' every line whether it's by dimming away all of the lights as if we were watching the actors onstage during a deathbed speech by Ellen Burstyn, her obvious affection for the material ultimately wins us over as it's apparent that she went behind the camera with the greatest of intentions to honor the playwright's undiscovered work.
Beautifully designed from the Gatsby yellow car driven by Fisher Willow to her Elizabeth Taylor style jet-black bobbed hair cut that calls to mind Taylor's work in various Williams cinematic ventures, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is lovingly transferred to widescreen high definition Blu-ray in this Screen Media release.
And even though the film meanders ever so slightly in its third act, particularly as it explores trippy territory, Teardrop recovers wonderfully thanks to a gorgeous final shot that not only echoes Gone With the Wind but furthermore cinematically enhances the way that at its best, Williams' perfectly poetic turn of phrase can invite added senses like taste, touch, and smell to best appreciate his unique monologues.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.