|The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jodie Markell|
|Produced by||Brad Michael Gilbert|
|Screenplay by||Tennessee Williams|
|Starring||Bryce Dallas Howard|
|Music by||Mark Orton|
|Edited by||Susan E. Morse|
|Distributed by||Screen Media Films|
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is a 2008 independent film by director Jodie Markell. It is based on Tennessee Williams' long-forgotten 1957 screenplay, and stars Bryce Dallas Howard in the leading role of Fisher Willow.
Under the threat of being disinherited, heiress Fisher Willow (Bryce Dallas Howard) reluctantly returns home after attending school abroad to participate in the tradition of come out to society at the request of her elderly aunt.
Prior to her return, Fisher’s father became hated in Memphis after he intentionally blew up part of his levee resulting in the deaths of 8–9 people and enormous property damage to others. Due to both her father's bad reputation and her own inappropriate behavior, no man is willing escort her to the society parties she must attend.
Fisher propositions a reluctant Jimmy (Chris Evans) to serve as her escort for the season in exchange for payment to which he agrees to accept. Although Jimmy is the great grandson of a former governor, his family is poor and his father who has a drinking problem has recently been hired to work for her father. Fisher also borrows $10,000 teardrop diamond earrings from her aunt to wear to these events.
At the first society party, Fisher causes a scene when she has the band play controversial music and dances in "flapper" fashion. The other guests don’t hide their contempt for her father. When Jimmy steps away momentarily a woman calls her the murderer’s daughter. Startled, she trips down the stairs to the delight and laughter of the partygoers. Jimmy arrives to help her and yells at everyone to shut up before they leave the party.
The only other party that Fisher is invited to is a Halloween party, given by her friend Jules, where no one has heard of her father's actions. As he waits for Fisher to pick him up for the next party, Jimmy mentions to his father that Fisher has been hinting that she wants to be intimate with him and if he were to agree then it could lead to marriage. This would mean a permanent job for his father and better care for his mother, who is in a mental institution.
On the way to the Halloween gathering, Fisher asks Jimmy to stop so she can look at the water. She rests her head on his shoulder before moving to kiss him. Jimmy, pulls back, causing Fisher to be hurt and embarrassed. When they arrive at the party, Fisher is so angry with Jimmy that she gets out of the car before it fully stops. When she realizes that one of her teardrop earrings has fallen off, she becomes frantic and then somewhat hysterical when Jimmy sees Vinnie, Jules cousin. It is evident to Fisher that the two had a previous relationship. Fisher demands that Jimmy search the area, yelling at him as he does so while making snide comments to Vinnie. She then asks Jimmy in an mistakenly accusatory tone to check his pockets to see if the earring was there. Jimmy becomes furious and demands that she search his jacket. Fisher refuses, causing Jimmy to go into the party and demand that he be searched down to the skin in order to clear his good name. The men, knowing him to be a man of good character and familiar with his family initially refuse but Jimmy continues to insist.
Fisher is called upstairs by her friend's Aunt Addie, who is bedridden from multiple strokes. Addie says that she senses a kindred spirit in her, the same character that will not bend to the rules of society, and tells Fisher of her use of opium before the strokes caused her to be brought back Tennessee. She points to a bottle on the shelf and asks Fisher to give her all of the pills so she can die and stop the pain. Fisher agrees, but before she can go through with it, she is interrupted by Vinnie telling her that Jimmy was searched and the earring was not on him. Fisher leaves her remaining earring, promising Addie that when she comes back to get it, she would give her the rest of the pills.
Fisher goes back downstairs and discovers that Jimmy told everyone she paid him to be her escort. Still angry at Fisher for what he perceive as her accusation of theft, he begins to ignore her and flirt heavily with Vinnie. Soon, the partygoers begin to play Post Office, a kissing game. Jules gives Fisher the highest card so that she can call Jimmy away from Vinnie and kiss him herself on the front porch. Fisher, having never played the game hides in the bathroom. There finds a bottle of medicine which contains a small amount of opium and drinks a large amount. While in a dreamy haze, she reveals to everyone that, while overseas, she was actually at a mental institution. She then ignores Jules’s cue to use the highest card she gave her. Jimmy, who had the next highest, calls Vinnie to go out on the porch with him. When Fisher realizes that he chose Vinnie instead of her, she offers to supply the music. At the piano she plays a beautiful song, in tears.
Out on the porch, Vinnie wants to do more than kiss and takes Jimmy to a car where they have sex. Vinnie tells Jimmy that she had an offer of marriage from a respectable man, but turned him down because she wasn't attracted to him like she is to Jimmy. She takes him over to the back garden and digs to unearth the missing teardrop diamond. She had saw it on the ground and had taken it herself. Vinnie says she knows where the other one is and that she and Jimmy could run away and start a life together. Jimmy refuses, telling her that just because they are poor, it doesn't mean they are without honor, and tries to reason with her to return the earring. When she refuses, Jimmy starts calling for Fisher so that Vinnie can return the diamond but Vinnie runs away.
Jimmy goes to look for Fisher and finds her in the car. She says she wants to go home, but Jimmy won't let her leave yet. As Jimmy struggles to pull Fisher out of the car they are interrupted by Vinnie who returns the earring to Fisher. Jimmy yells that they can leave now that she has the earring back, but Fisher remembers her promise to Addie and runs back inside. After she leaves, Jimmy thanks Vinnie and realizing she has no other option says goodbye as she will marry the man that asked her. Fisher retrieves the other earring and fulfills her promise to Addie, giving her the entire contents of the bottle. Addie tells her to go with God. Fisher replies that she is: she's leaving with Jimmy.
On the way home, Fisher asks Jimmy to stop at the same levee so she can see the moon on the water. They stand together, and Fisher tells him that she wants to be with him. Jimmy tells her that there are better choices for her but she disagrees and states that he is the only man she wants. Jimmy then tells her that she doesn’t belong in the town and Fisher replies that she has to stay there to somehow make amends for what her father has done. She then goes on to say that his mother could be properly taken care of and his father could have lifetime employment no matter how much he drinks, and while she knows that no one could ever love her, he could get used to her. She reaches up to touch his face, but he pulls away again. Heartbroken, Fisher turns to walk away, only to find that Jimmy had grabbed her hand – a silent agreement to her proposal. She turns back to him and once again rests her head on his shoulder.
Tennessee Williams wrote The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond in 1957; at that time, director Elia Kazan (who previously worked with Williams on A Streetcar Named Desire and Baby Doll) was attached to the project, reuniting with Williams for a third time. Kazan, however, went to work on other projects. Williams was interested in casting Julie Harris in the lead role. He continued to work on the script as late as 1980; it was published after his death.
Jodie Markell recalled how she first became aware of the script: "I had been interested in Tennessee Williams since I was a teenager. I'd read a lot of his work, everything I could find. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and it really spoke to me. When I was in acting school one of my teachers showed me a collection of his screenplays, and when I read The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond I couldn't believe it had never been made. I really related to the character, Fisher Willow – mostly in her struggle to be heard in a society that keeps those who are more sensitive, more perceptive, more artistic, more romantic, witty – those people, he had an affinity for. He makes us understand them, he makes us see their vulnerabilities."
Markell then sought out the rights to do the film from Williams' estate. She was fairly young, and at the time the estate was extremely tight and not giving the rights to a lot of Williams' work. Markell said, "In time things changed, and the people who were in control of the rights changed, and we kept approaching them every few years with producer Brad Gilbert, who was really great and obtained the rights eventually. Together, we sought out the actors we wanted and the project started to come alive and the financing came together." Markell filmed in CinemaScope to evoke the rich coloration of Williams films of the 1950s, and was at pains not to make a film that was "dusty and overbaked, like so many Williams productions you see these days."
In November 2006, it was announced that Lindsay Lohan was going to play the lead role, but in March 2007, Bryce Dallas Howard was under negotiations for Lohan's role and went on to be cast. However, Markell later stated that the casting of Lohan never happened; that the reported announcement was an error by the press. Howard was her first choice, and later went on to be cast. Shooting for the film began on August 13, 2007 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The film has received generally negative reviews. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 26% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 38 reviews, with an average score of 4.4/10. Metacritic, however, gave it an overall 51 out of 100 rating. Mick LaSalle is the San Francisco Chronicle writes “Even though Howard never quite gets it, never quite releases into the role and never quite convinces, she never makes a mistake, either”