“The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond,” directed by Jodi Markell, is a visually stimulating story set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties in Memphis, Tenn.
Written by Tennessee Williams, the story takes on a bittersweet arc, exploring a haunting past, the results of abandonment and the tartness that is life and death.
It follows Fisher Willow (Bryce Dallas Howard), a highly disliked and rebellious debutante who has a strong distaste for narrow-minded people and a fondness for shocking and insulting those around her.
Her unpopularity stems from the opening scene of the movie where a man (later revealed as her father) purposely breaks the levees in Memphis, killing two of its citizens.
This family scandal propels the story. Fisher becomes plagued by the ongoing ridicule that she receives from her former socialite friends because of it. After returning from her studies overseas, she realizes she is no longer at the top of the social calendar, but that doesn’t ruin her party season.
Knowing that she needs to distract everyone from her family’s scandal, she hires Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans), a farmhand who works on her plantation to be her escort to these parties.
She uses money to try and win his affection, believing that money can buy her what she wants. It doesn’t, though, when the one thing she actually wants is to be loved.
The film doesn’t pick up speed until about a third of the way in.
Fisher borrows her Aunt’s teardrop diamond earrings worth $10,000 and loses them at a party. From then, Fisher’s story takes on a surprising turn where she is forced to make a heavy decision of taking a life, confronting the realization that she is impossible to love and the ostracism from the artificial life she once led as a socialite.
One of the best aspects of the film is its cinematography.
In the Q&A session that followed the screening, Markell, the director, stated that on the copy of the original manuscript for the screenplay Williams had written: “I want this to have visual magic.” The film did.
The most successful scene in the entire film is the one of Fisher in an altered state, after she takes opium.
It is easy to get these kinds of scenes completely wrong and unrealistic, but during Fisher’s trip, the camera dips and follows her, it blurs with her eyes and dances with her flowing arms as the sweat runs down the sides of her face.
Though the narrative itself may run a bit sluggishly, the overall effect pays off if you’re willing to trust Williams’ writing.
The viewer must give it a chance and take it in as a story that says more than its written dialogue. And if one has never heard of nor read anything by Williams, it would be safe to say that this film won’t make such a strong impression and will leave viewers dismissive.
It’s a definitely a love it or hate it type of film.
Contact Victoria Phetmisy