The Dubious Kindness of Archivists

12/30/2009 4:00 AM |

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
Directed by Jodie Markell

Tennessee Williams told the New York Times in 1957 that he hoped his new original screenplay The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond would be directed by Elia Kazan and star Julie Harris, but nothing came of that at the time, and his script remained un-produced. The theater actress Jodie Markell, who made her biggest impact when she excavated and starred in the Sophie Treadwell play Machinal, has now excavated Teardrop Diamond for her feature debut as a film director. Unfortunately, in the all-important female lead role once earmarked for the great Harris, Markell has cast Bryce Dallas Howard, a bland actress who suggests a monotonous 90s party girl instead of the coffee-guzzling, desperate, poetic wallflower intended by Williams. Howard is technically unable to bring out the reserves of comedy and pathos in her juicy role, and the rather thin material would benefit from a tighter, more driven pace; it tends to drag, especially during the lengthy party set piece that takes up so much of the film’s running time. Throughout, it’s impossible not to imagine what Kazan and Harris might have achieved with this script, with Paul Newman as the object of desire played here by pretty boy Chris Evans. The combination of Kazan, Harris and Newman might have made a small classic out of Williams’s script, whereas Markell has valiantly created a mild bit of Williams ephemera that could have been more than a curiosity piece with a more dynamic actress at its center.

Opens December 30