Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is one of America's celebrated poets, yet her acclaim did not arrive until after her suicide. She led a troubled life, which served as some of the inspiration for her poems. Her poems were so good because of who she was, as sad as it would be. Sylvia does no real justice to Plath. After watching the film, people unfamiliar with Plath would think that she is dull and depressing. The last part may be true, but the "dull" part is due to the lumbering nature of Christine Jeffs' (Rain) film. Sylvia focuses on Plath's (Gwyneth Paltrow, View From the Top, Possession) tempestuous relationship to husband and poet Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig, Road to Perdition, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider). The movie posits that his infidelity was a large reason for her suicide, which happened shortly after her novel The Bell Jar won wide acclaim.

Plath met Hughes at a party in Cambridge, where she was on her Fulbright Scholarship. They instantly fell for each other and married soon after. Hughes had just written a withering critique of one of Plath's poems, but that only seemed to draw her to him more. Initially, their marriage was good. Things slowly went downhill, and Plath's inability to come up with new material did not help things. She became easily agitated, constantly angry, and depressed. Hughes was still able to work, which made Plath feel worse.

This is not easy material to deal with, and Jeffs does not do a great job with the material. Her first film, Rain, was a much better effort, because it was able to convey a sense of headiness, where the viewer can palpably feel the emotions rolling amongst the cast. Maybe it is because time screenwriter John Brownlow has written a movie. It is almost unconscionable to write a movie about a poet and not include any of the said poet's work. What then is the point?

Paltrow does give a tortured performance as Plath, but the funereal pacing and mood takes much away from her performance. Many things are going on inside her head, and the script gives Paltrow no opportunity to voice them, only to give a prolonged series of anguished looks. Craig fares worse. Even though he is on screen for a large amount of time, he still feels hollow. At the end of Sylvia, the character of Sylvia Plath still remains somewhat of a mystery. Sure, the events in her life are a bit clearer, but what really drove her to write is not.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated R for sexuality/nudity, and language.

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