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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Glass Menagerie (1987)

A young loner (John Malkovich) recalls his dysfunctional home life with his faded Southern belle mother (Joanne Woodward) and his awkward and shy sister (Karen Allen). Specifically, the night he brought home a "gentleman caller" (James Naughton, THE PAPER CHASE) for his sister, a friend from work to dinner at the insistence of his mother. I'm not sure that Tennessee Williams' ethereal and lyrical memory piece can or will ever successfully be translated into film. Any attempt to cinematize it would most likely destroy the delicacy of the play. It's a self described memory piece, fragile and poignant. The camera's harsh glare seems to be almost invasive. The character of Amanda Wingfield, the former Southern belle who clings to her Magnolia dripped past, is a dicey character to play. In some ways, she's a beautiful monster but the actress playing her needs to balance the nagging shrew with the loving mother who wants the best for her children. It's a tightrope act alright. Woodward's performance may be erratic but she's still better than the previous screen Amandas, Gertrude Lawrence and Kate Hepburn. Amanda may be the most memorable character but the highlight of the film is the lengthy, beautifully played out scene between Laura (Allen) and her gentleman caller (Naughton). Of the actors, it's John Malkovich who nails it though. His "selfish dreamer" (based on Williams' himself) is underplayed to perfection and he gets every nuance out of Williams' stunning poetry. Directed by Paul Newman with a fine bluesy score by Henry Mancini.

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