Eric D. Snider

Sylvia

Sylvia Plath fans, unite! A film has been made celebrating her depression! And due to sanctions made by her family, none of her actual poetry is used in the film! So it's a movie about a creative type who's really sad! Imagine the joy in watching it.

In truth, though the film, directed by Christine Jeffs, is technically proficient and features a perfectly good performance by Gwyneth Paltrow, I cannot imagine enduring it again. The entire point seems to be: She sure was sad. Boy, look how sad she was. She must be bipolar or manic depressive or something. Sad, sad, sad. Oh, and then she killed herself. Sad, sad, sad.

Unless you are a devotee of Ms. Plath's, the film will hold little interest for you. It begins with her at Cambridge in 1956, an American girl on a Fulbright scholarship. After her poetry is excoriated in the campus literary journal, she meets the critic, a fellow poet named Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig). They fall in love and are married, and he, with his sonorous voice and rugged good looks, becomes a fan favorite while she is saddled with domestic chores and finds it difficult to create new poetry herself.

Ted's success -- both with critics and with female fans, who swoon over him at readings -- caused Sylvia to be consumed with jealousy, a passion which contributes to her destruction. But it, like all of Plath's emotions, is presented as a matter of fact, and not as part of a character study. Jeffs' direction of John Brownlow's screenplay merely retells Plath's life without insight or commentary, caught once again in the biopic trap of assuming a person's life is interesting simply because 1) it's true and 2) the filmmaker happens to really, really like the subject.

Take this as a litmus test: Going in, I knew very little about Sylvia Plath. Coming out, I knew her basic biography, along with dates and events, but little about her as a person. And more to the point, I still didn't care.

Grade: C

Rated R, several strong profanities, some strong sexuality, a smattering of nudity

1 hr., 56 min.

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