This made-for-TV version of Tennessee Williams' classic play is little more than a photographed recording of the Broadway revival starring Jessica Lange.
On a leave of absence from the school where she teaches, Blanche DuBois (Jessica Lange), arrives in the French quarter of New Orleans for a visit with her pregnant sister, Stella (Diane Lane), and her husband, Stanley (Alec Baldwin). Stella is shocked to learn that their family estate has been
lost to creditors. Blanche's reluctance to provide details and her expensive wardrobe arouse Stanley's suspicions.
Blanche meets and flirts with Stanley's friend Mitch (John Goodman), a courtly middle-aged bachelor. Stanley learns that Blanche had a reputation in her home town for promiscuity and unstable behavior, and was in fact fired from her job for seducing a teenaged boy. Stella refuses to believe these
stories, defending her sister as emotionally delicate. Stanley also tells this to Mitch, who had been considering proposing to Blanche.
Stella goes into labor. While she and Stanley are at the hospital, Mitch confronts Blanche. After forcing her to show herself in the lights she has always avoided because they give away her true age, he leaves, disgusted at the way she has manipulated him. Stanley returns home, jubilant at his
impending fatherhood. He tries to be conciliatory toward Blanche, but they fight again, and he rapes her.
With her sister unwilling to believe her version of what happened, Blanche loses her precarious hold on reality and is sent to a mental institution, believing that the doctor who comes for her is a gentleman admirer.
The sole advantage of this STREETCAR over its 1951 predecessor is its use of the complete text of Tennessee Williams' play. Most notably, it restores the speech in which Blanche discusses the homosexuality of her dead husband and the ending in which Stella stays with Stanley, choosing not to
believe Blanche's accusation of rape. That Blanche is indeed raped is also more clearly (though tastefully) shown.
But in every other respect, this is a prime example of the dangers of remaking a classic. Perhaps it was wise for director Glenn Jordan to choose not to compete with Elia Kazan: rather than make the play into a film, as did Kazan, Jordan treats this as a "You Are There" look at the Broadway
revival he is adapting. However, the production would have had to be much stronger for that strategy to succeed. Of the cast's quartet of leading players, only John Goodman succeeds in escaping the shadow of the famous film: as Mitch, he isn't better than Karl Malden, but he is different and
performs respectably. Diane Lane makes little impression as a surprisingly sultry Stella. Alec Baldwin is quite miscast--he isn't nearly brutish enough to play Stanley (though who is?), and too often seems to be imitating Marlon Brando's performance. Jessica Lange doesn't seem to have watched
Vivien Leigh's Blanche at all, but perhaps she should have. Lange and Blanche bring out the worst in each other, as the actress utterly fails to evoke any of the sympathy the character needs. It's Acting with a capital "A," as if she were playing Norma Desmond playing Blanche DuBois. (Violence,sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: This made-for-TV version of Tennessee Williams' classic play is little more than a photographed recording of the Broadway revival starring Jessica Lange. On a leave of absence from the school where she teaches, Blanche DuBois (Jessica Lange), arrives in t… (more)