The announcement that a long-lost screenplay by Tennessee Williams—written in the ’50s for Elia Kazan and James Dean—was not only rediscovered but would finally be adapted into a film gave fans cause for celebration. Their reaction to the end product, however, will likely sound more like a Bronx cheer than a grateful huzzah. It’s not just that director Jodie Markell is no Kazan (though really, who is?) or that the dreary, dully handsome Chris Evans—even playing a blank-slate beau hunk seems beyond his capabilities—is the anti-Dean. Rather, the female characters that the late playwright has concocted here feel like pale imitations of his past heroines. A precocious party girl (Howard) with a dark past, a gold-digging city slicker (Collins), an opium-addicted matriarch (Burstyn)—Blanche DuBois and Amanda Wingfield would eat these women for lunch.
To her credit, Howard’s performance as a class-obsessed Southerner is decent enough to keep things from completely devolving to community-college level. But such weak work needs strong hands all around to guide it, and one pair isn’t enough. If clunky I-do-declah! melodramatics were what the Pulitzer Prize winner had in mind, perhaps this torrid tale of lust and jewelry should have remained lost.