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Overall Rating
3.29

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look47.06%
Average: 35.29%
Pretty Bad: 17.65%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings


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Sylvia
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by Smiles

"There was more to her life than poetry."
4 stars

When does adultery begin? Is it a glance, a hand shake or a just a mere thought? When does curiosity spill over into jealousy? These are the questions that are raised and explored in Sylvia, the new biopic from Focus Films, regarding the relationship and marriage of poets Sylvia Plath and Edward (Ted) Hughes.

When does adultery begin? Is it a glance, a hand shake or a just a mere thought? When does curiosity spill over into jealousy? These are the questions that are raised and explored in Sylvia, the new biopic from Focus Films, regarding the relationship and marriage of poets Sylvia Plath and Edward (Ted) Hughes.

We first see Sylvia (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Ted (Daniel Craig) at Cambridge. It is not just their poetry that draws them to each other. Their first meeting is electric, even animalistic. While dancing at a school function he steals her earring and she bites him on the cheek, drawing blood. That exchange starts a courtship that melds minds and bodies and leads to a wedding a mere four months later.

Following the wedding the couple sets off for America, on the heals of Ted’s latest literary win. The summer is spent honeymooning on Cape code, and we start to see sparks of trouble. While Hughes can go out on a walk and come back with a poetic masterpiece, Plath works hours only to come up with nothing - she ends up baking instead.

After spending the summer honeymooning on Cape Cod, Plath begins teaching at Smith College, her alma matter, while Hughes is left to write. While Plath slaves away at grading papers, her husband is treated like a literary rock star with throngs of adoring female fans.

Soon questions of infidelity arise and the couple starts an emotional rollercoaster. They try to move back to England. They have two children. They both continue to write. But as Hughes work receives accolades, Plath’s writing is passed over – she is relegated to being Mrs. Ted Hughes. All of this builds to a breaking point and they end up separated. Hughes leaves Plath for another woman and shortly thereafter Plath finally succeeds in committing suicide.

For a movie about people who made their living using words, there is a surprising little use of them. Instead emotion and action are used to propel the story forward. And Paltrow’s performance is at the heart of this. Shedding her usual glamorous appearance, Paltrow is Plath. When she sits there rocking back and forth while writing, the pain of the process is deeply felt. The first time Paltrow sees Craig talking to another woman, there is no question as to what is going through her mind no matter what protestations are made. And as the end draws near, Paltrow adeptly depicts the struggle and torment going on inside. She manages to get the audience to feel for Plath without making us pity Plath.

Craig (as Hughes) has the responsibility of reacting to Paltrow’s masterful performance. He does so quite well, holding his own and creating a subtle and flawed character that is impossible to hate outright. Blythe Danner (Paltrow’s mother) as Aurelia Plath (Plath’s mother) and Jared Harris as Al Alvarez help to flesh out the main characters and round out the cast nicely.

All of this is under the direction of Christine Jeffs. She has, in a nonjudgmental way, provided a stripped, almost voyeuristic look into Plath and Hughes’s life. Which of the looks, glances and brushes Sylvia saw were actual infidelities? When after being accused of adultery so many times did Ted actually succumb to it? Clues are artistically dropped through out the movie, giving it a riveting quality. It is from these that we as the audience get to decide what may have happened between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

It is reported that Plath’s daughter, Frieda Hughes refused to let any of her mother’s poems be used for the film. It is also reported that many acquaintances refused to give permission to have their personages used on screen. Perhaps it is for the best. For instead of cluttered movie focusing on her poems or her death we can instead focus on Plath’s life and participate in a discussion regarding a powerful relationship that has been the subject of debate for decades.

What would have happened had she lived? If only we knew.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8261&reviewer=383
originally posted: 08/30/05 01:16:10
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User Comments

2/19/04 Charles Tatum Who did the script? Reader's Digest Condensed Screenplays? 2 stars
2/03/04 Helen Bradley Good script Paltrow as always overacting 2 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Paltrow, Craig & Danner give fine performances in this underwhelming biopic. 4 stars
1/08/04 sarah jason king is a douche. you heard it here first. 2 stars
10/24/03 Jason King Paltrow is fantastic, film is one of the best currently in release. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  29-Jan-2004




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