"The Loss of a Teadrop Diamond" is being marketed as a "lost" play/screenplay by Tennessee Williams, although it was not so much lost as half-forgotten.
And honestly, I'm sure Williams would have preferred that it stay half-forgotten. While Jodie Markell does her best to bring to life a world of Southern mansions, debutantes and 1920s jazz bands, the movie drags like a ballgown train in a mud puddle -- and while Bryce Dallas Howard does a great job with her thin character, Chris Evans is just DREADFUL.
To stay in her elderly aunt's good graces (and will), Southern flapper Fisher Willow (Howard) has agreed to debut in the city of Memphis, even though most of the people hate her for something her father did. So she recruits Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans), a poor young man with an alcoholic father and insane mother, to be her escort to the various parties. So she buys a tuxedo for him and trots him out every evening.
Additionally, she borrows her aunt's teardrop diamond earrings (for herself, not Jimmy!). But when she and Jimmy arrive at a Halloween party, Fisher discovers that one of her earrings is missing -- and when she cluelessly asks if it could have fallen into his pocket, he understandably thinks that she's implying that he stole it. Naturally, the rift between them threatens their budding romance.
"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" has all the hallmarks of a Tennessee Williams story (booze, drugs, melancholy, the South, madness and a woman half-broken by the world) and probably would have made an excellent short film... say, half an hour or so. But since the actual film is about an hour and a half long, it's a swampy, slow-moving affair with lots of deadwood that should have been cut away.
Director Jodie Markell does a pretty good job with the atmosphere -- big half-decayed Southern mansions, misty lakes, luxurious ballrooms and wild places dripping with Spanish moss. Sadly, she sticks closely to the original clunky dialogue -- which is NOT Williams' best or even middling work ("I'm poor, you're poor. And that's hard, 'specially for a beautiful girl. But you got a moral decision to make!").
And as the seemingly endless party grinds slowly by, we're treated to lots of scenes seem to have been inserted just to prop up the sagging storyline (Fisher visiting a paralyzed opium addict... what was this scene for?). Most embarrassing of all is a scene where Fisher chugs some opium-laced "medicine" and takes a trippy walk around the grounds, mumbling about having been in a mental hospital.
It also doesn't help that the characters of Fisher and Jimmy are pretty unappealing -- I couldn't muster up enough interest in Fisher to care what happened to her and Jimmy. The saving grace is that Howard is a simply brilliant actress, and she almost distracts us from the fact that Fisher is a greedy, rude, self-absorbed brat, and I couldn't find myself caring about people being mean to her. And Evans just stands around like an upright log, looking confused and drawling in a strained "Suthun" accent.
"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" has moments of beauty and a brilliant actress, but it feels like a short film was stretched out over an hour and a half. Not Williams' best work.