Amanda, a frustrated mother long since deserted by her husband, clings to memories of her youth as a Southern belle. Unhappy with her son Tom’s progress in the world, she’s even more disappointed in her shy daughter Laura’s retreat from reality. When Tom brings home Jim, a gentleman caller, everyone is hopeful that something fine and beautiful will happen as a result.
Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie is an American classic. In this sensitive and touching screen version, Joanna Woodward brings an impressive range of colors to the part of Amanda. Here is a once beautiful woman who wants all the best for her children but manipulates and criticizes them in the name of maternal love.
John Malkovich’s Tom provides a fine foil to Amanda. Alternately angry and restless, he’s a dreamer who yearns for adventure and life beyond the drudgery of supporting the family. This very talented actor conveys a tenderness for his sister and her plight.
The role of Laura is pivotal to the success of the drama. Karen Allen plays her convincingly as a shy, lost soul who for a magic instant is brought to life by Jim (entertainingly realized by James Naughton) until he reveals his engagement to another woman.
Director Paul Newman remains true to the Chekhovian flavor of Tennessee Williams’s work. There is a visual fluidity to the staging of the play which matches its dreamlike quality. Best of all, this screen adaptation graphically depicts the loneliness and pain at the heart of this family circle.