A vortex of charisma. A supernova of hyper-realistic emotion. Marlon Brando was a Great Actor and a Gorgeous Creature. Of that there is no doubt.
But sometimes, it seems, there is such a thing as too much charisma. I discovered that when I went to see a theater-on-film showing of A Streetcar Named Desire from the Young Vic in London.
I was a stage-Streetcar virgin, having only seen the work in the famed Elia Kazan movie with Vivien Leigh and Brando. Directed by Benedict Andrews, the Young Vic production was a revelation to me because of its casting.
In the complex and sympathetic portrayal by Gillian Anderson, Blanche becomes the center of the story, as she should be. On the other side of the conflict, Stanley (Brando’s character in the movie) is an ordinary, small-minded guy as played by Ben Foster. It’s not his story. He just happens to be stuck in Blanche’s orbit for a while, and in for a very bumpy ride.
With these casting choices, the balance of the work shifted, making it into something the film could not attain because of Brando’s magnetism. And surely this particular brand of domestic mess was closer to the mess Tennessee Williams intended.