Being the admirer of Tennessee Williams that I am, I have picked up on the many common roles in his plays: the woman on the brink of self-destruction, the young man striving to make a name for himself, and the small posse determined to keep everyone's morals intact.
These characters are showcased in Sweet Bird of Youth. All of them long to have their met, but of course that isn't always the case. Knowing Williams' sense of nihilism, he never goes for the happy ending. (Well, with the exception of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.)
With Sweet Bird of Youth, all of the characters long for the past. They want to find a way to remember their glory days, but it's no use. They also want their futures to contain tints of their pasts.
Richard Brooks' adaptation of Williams' play stars Paul Newman and Geraldine Page, both the stars of the original stage production. Both are at the top of their game here. Newman's Chance Wayne strives to be famous, Page's Alexandra Del Lago wants to be forgotten. Both are fantastic in their roles.
Of course knowing Hollywood from this time period, they demanded a happy ending. (The play's ending was much more violent.) However, comparing the two endings, I liked the movie's ending more. Also, apart from the ending change and an added scene or two, the movie's very true to the play.
What's worth checking out?: I'd go with the movie.