Gwyneth paltrow is sexy and willful in the finest and most passionate performance of her career as legendary author and poet sylvia plath. A powerful and compelling love story about two of the last centurys most influentia... more »l artists. Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 08/24/2004 Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow« less
Amy T. from MCCOOK LAKE, SD Reviewed on 12/6/2007...
heartbreaking. Love Sylvia Plath; loved the movie
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Excellent Performances But "Sylvia" Lacks Depth.
Jana L. Perskie | New York, NY USA | 03/27/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Director Christine Jeffs manages to strike an evenhanded tone in her biopic "Sylvia," which deals with the last few years in the life of poet Sylvia Plath. Jeffs doesn't place all the blame for Ms. Plath's suffering, deep depression and subsequent suicide on Ted Hughes, (which many Plath fans do), nor does she glorify the poet's pain. However, the complexities of Plath's psyche, illness, motivations and goals, the intricacies of her relationship and marriage to Hughes, and her roles as mother and poet, are short shrifted. I don't know if this flaw is due to the limitations of the medium or to problems with the screenwriting and direction. This is a film about a woman with a suicidal past who writes poetry, loves, marries, becomes depressed, insecure and jealous, has children, is "deceived," falls deeper into depression and turns on the gas - the main character just happens to be Sylvia Plath. I really would have liked to have seen more of an emphasis given to Plath's writing and love of literature. Ms. Plath also placed tremendous importance on parenting her children and often found much pleasure in being a mother and a wife, as well as a poet. This is not evident in the movie.Sylvia Plath's story is a desperate and tragic one. However, the movie dwells on her depression to the extent that it appears the writer never had a happy moment after her honeymoon. Even the film's use of color reflects this unhappy mood. Plath dresses in warm colors up until her wedding, after which her clothes and the ambient colors become darker and darker. Her writer's block is clearly shown but her periods of extreme productivity, especially toward the end of her life, when, writing through the nights she poured poetry onto the page with almost manic energy, are not really portrayed. All the biographies I have read on Sylvia Plath discuss the joy she found in motherhood. Her exhaustion caring for two small children, taking care of her home and writing is evident throughout the movie, as it was in real life. But nowhere is Ms. Plath shown laughing and playing with her children, with the exception of a brief Christmas scene. Her small daughter is almost always shown toddling behind her mother, a bewildered, sad expression on her face. Nor does the movie show Ms. Plath's tremendous struggle to live, fighting against her overwhelming depression. The contrasts between happiness and deep sorrow, energy and listlessness, struggle for control over her demons and loss of control are strangely absent. The character of Sylvia Plath ultimately comes across as a relatively passive figure, at the mercy of her mental illness, whose moods are closely tied to her husband's demonstrations of affection and attention.Gwyneth Paltrow does a wonderful job, as always, given the material she had to work with. Her performance is sensitive and intense. The few times she recites poetry, including a wonderful scene where she does a small bit from Chaucer's "Wife of Bath" in Middle English, are extraordinary. Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes is excellent, capturing the magnetic charisma of the poet, his bewilderment as his relationship falls apart, and his careless indifference toward Sylvia's suffering and his children's vulnerability. Blythe Danner, Paltrow's mother in real life, is excellent in the role of Plath's mother and Michael Gambon does an extraordinary job as the sympathetic downstairs neighbor.I have been a big fan of Sylvia Plath's poetry for many years and have read some excellent biographies on the poet as well as work by Ted Hughes. This is a difficult review for me to write because I want to be objective about the film, which does oversimplify Ms. Plath's life. We get the facts but not the depth. There is a tremendous lack of scope here. If one is not familiar with Plath and her work I am not sure that the movie would inform with more than a melodramatic overview of her life. As stated above, the acting is fine and the photography appropriately moody. For a more comprehensive experience I would suggest reading some of Ms. Plath's exceptional poetry, if you haven't already, before viewing the film.
A bit too circumspect
David A. Bede | Singapore | 10/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to give the folks behind this movie credit for not dwelling too much on the melodramatic aspects of Sylvia Plath's short life. But the fact is that her story really was very melodramatic throughout, and "Sylvia" tries too hard to look past that. Too bad, because it's otherwise a great movie. All the essentials of Plath's relationship with Ted Hughes are presented, with just enough details of her early life filled in through dialogue to give even unfamiliar viewers an understanding of the troubled poet's story. The cinematography is great throughout, and the writers were surprisingly careful to avoid taking sides in the still ongoing did-Ted-drive-her-to-suicide debate. (Both are portrayed as passionate lovers but terrible spouses, which is probably the truth.) And yes, the producers were legally barred from using all but a few random lines of Plath's poetry in the script, but I didn't find that very harmful - anybody can recite poetry, and having Gwyneth Paltrow do so won't necessarily give you a better appreciation for its meaning anyway. What is more troubling is the lack of any effort to illustrate what inspired Plath or how her work impacted the last few years of her life. Even "The Bell Jar" warrants only one mention, and that almost in passing. This is acceptable in the context of a story that seems far more focused on her relationship with her husband than anything else, but at the very least the movie's title probably should have reflected that. Still, it's an interesting, if appropriately bleak, look at one of the more tragic marriages in literary history."
crazyforgems | Wellesley, MA United States | 11/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let's face it: if you're going to see "Sylvia", most likely you realize that it's not going to be a feel good movie. You won't leave the theater all warm and fuzzy.And you don't. However, you do leave the theater with a lot to think about for the rest of the day. First and foremost, both Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig give bold, memorable performances as Sylvia Path and Ted Hughes, the doomed poet couple of the late 1950's and early 1960's. Patrow looks so much like photos of Plath that it's eerie. However, she does more than just look like her-she conveys the woman's neurotic brilliance, her desperate need to conform to her ideals of feminity, motherhood and wifehood while at the same time trying to produce world class poetry. Craig meanwhile (who also looks like photos of Hughes) illuminates both the magenetism of Hughes' presence--which drew sylvia and many other women to him--and his trying to meet the challenge of living with Sylvia. Hughes was brilliant too--but not mentally ill and that makes all the difference.
Strong supporting performances run through the movie; most notably, Blythe Danner as Plath's mother and Michael Gambon as a kindly though increasingly impatient neighbor.
I would recommend this movie to those who gravitate towards art house movies and literature lovers. If you're a Ted Hughes basher, this movie may be too balanced for you. Likewise, if you're a Plath basher. Yest it's a small movie in many ways--the score could have been better, the story fleshed out a bit more (hence the four stars)--but it is a very good small movie."
"Sylvia Suicide Doll"
Josh Hitchens | Philadelphia, PA | 08/09/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When Frieda Hughes wrote a poem in protest of this film, she called it "Sylvia Suicide Doll." It turns out that she wasn't that far off. This is a mediocre movie in many respects, and a decent one in others. Overall, it is a misfire.
Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) was an American poet who found her soul mate in British poet Ted Hughes, played here by Daniel Craig. Sylvia was obsessed with her poetry, and was a little resentful when her husband's star eclipsed hers. Their passionate marriage deteriorates when Hughes cheats on Sylvia and she discovers it, moving with her two children to London. Worn down by depression, Sylvia Plath killed herself in 1963, at the age of thirty, but not before writing the brilliant "Ariel" poems, which secured her place in the canon of American poets.
Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as Sylvia Plath is the reason to see this movie. She is especially effective in the second part of the film, when Sylvia separates from Ted Hughes and plunges into a deep depression. In these scenes Paltrow looks and acts so much like the real Plath that you get goose bumps. The resemblence is eerie. Paltrow creates a woman desperate for love and recognition, but who dealt with intense suicidal urges all her life. Many people have decided to cast Sylvia Plath as a saint, with Hughes as the devil who drove her to suicide. Paltrow makes it clear that Sylvia's death wish was there from the beginning, and dares to make Plath unlikeable at times. You can understand why Ted Hughes left her, but also sympathize with her as she falls apart. The scene where Sylvia burns the letters that Ted's mistress wrote him makes your heart break. Gwyneth Paltrow gives a very strong, brave performance. It's a tragedy that nearly everything surrounding it is inferior.
The supporting cast, with the exception of Michael Gambon and Blythe Danner, is forgettable. Daniel Craig is hopeless as Ted Hughes, he is simply not a very good actor. The first choices for the part of Ted were Russell Crowe and Colin Firth, who both refused, no doubt because the script for "Sylvia" is weak. It fails to give you a sense of who Plath was as a writer, and is full of holes. In one scene, Sylvia says that she can't write anymore. In the very next, she is celebrating the publication of "The Colossus," her first book. The cinematography for this movie is breathtakingly beautiful, one of the best of the year.
The one thing that I cannot forgive this movie for is its ending. It perpetuates the myth that Sylvia Plath is a martyr to suicide, that it is somehow noble that she abandones her two young children and her career. In the film, as Sylvia looks into the oven, a heavenly golden light shines upon her. There is no excuse for this ending. Sylvia Plath's suicide was a tragic loss to her family and to literature, not a noble act.
See this movie for the cinematography and for Gwyneth Paltrow's great performance. One day there will be a great movie made about the life of Sylvia Plath. This one manages to be little more than the CliffsNotes version."