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Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig
Screenplay by John Brownlow
Directed by Christine Jeffs

IN SHORT: Oscar loves stuff like this: beautifully acted and unbearable to sit through. [Rated R for sexuality/nudity and language. 110 minutes]

Rarely do we walk in to a film knowing the inevitable outcome but, this being a recreation of the life of writer Sylvia Plath, her life and death are the stuff of legend. The latter bit was still the talk of the English professors at university a decade or so after her death. Christine Jeffs' film, Sylvia, may have been too faithful to that life. Rarely do we walk out of a screening wishing that we had a gun to put to our head. That's actually a complement to the film maker's process, if not an endorsement of the absolute need to go out and buy a ticket. The release of Sylvia at this time of the year, coupled with the absolute unpleasantness of the story screams gimme an Oscar.

For those that know little of the life of poet and writer Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) and husband, also a poet and writer, Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig), here it is. Her early published poetry caught his attention as a reviewer -- he didn't like it. He didn't like it a lot. In response, she checks out his stories and finds that she likes them.She likes them a lot. When the pair meet face to face, she is studying in England on a Fulbright scholarship, the attraction is immediate and the vows are spoken a mere four months later. Once her studies are finished, the pair relocate to the States, Plath taking a teaching position at Smith College. Hughes also gives lectures; at one point winning a prize for a contest he "didn't know (I'd) entered." Sylvia's mother Aurelia Plath (Blythe Danner) orders Ted to be kind to her fragile daughter and her overbearing manner affects both. Neither can write so they return to England where the story will continue and conclude.

With Paltrow reading portions of Plath's work as a sort of narration over the unfolding story we see the relationship flourish and then collapse due to Hughes' philandering ways, even as Plath's work (the best known being "The Bell Jar") begins to achieve critical success. As for her mental stability, that history is buried in the background of the script, so pay attention, if you can. We found our self continually distracted by a backing soundtrack blaring at painful levels.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Sylvia, he would have paid . . .


For hardcore arthouse-philes.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.