Gwenyth Paltrow and Daniel Craig star in the well-acted but ultimately flat Sylvia, a film about the life of poets Sylvia Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes.
The movie, like so many of these stories about poets, encapsulates much of Sylvia's lifetime, starting off when she is in school - where she meets her husband, of course - and how she struggles through life with both depression and the inability to get her poetry noticed. Under the shadow of her successful husband, she goes through life always feeling second - because his poetry is always regarded highly, and she oftentimes suspects him of cheating on her. Of course, she eventually does become famous; why else would this movie get made about her?
My biggest complaint with Sylvia is that it is no different from the many other films about similar people in the past. Not to take away from their achievements in life, but most stories about poets or artists are pretty similar; they meet their significant other at an early age, have some marital problems, and then die either via suicide or some disease. While each person is their own, as movies go, they all run pretty much the same, and after a while you have to wonder why studios keep pumping out films like these. It is not that they are bad, but that they just aren't overly great, either.
Sylvia succeeds through its acting; Paltrow and Craig are both top notch. Both deliver their characters with much depth, though I must admit that I did not find Sylvia Plath to be the most wonderful of protagonists; the movie portrays her as weak-minded, paranoid and a little crazy at times. Her paranoia turns out to be well-founded in the end, but I still did not find her to be the most interesting of subjects. On the other hand, I found Ted Hughes to be a much more suitable character; though obviously flawed, I felt more connection with his character - it helps that Craig dominates every scene that he is in.
Aside from the acting, the movie itself is nothing to scream about. As mentioned above, Sylvia does not differ much from other movies in the same genre, and the result is that the movie ends up being a bit boring at times. Even though I didn't know anything about Plath or Hughes before watching the movie, I could predict exactly what was going to happen. Also, the presentation is nothing incredible; director Christine Jeffs has thrown in a lot of scenes where there is little talking and a lot of "character pondering." I didn't find these scenes to be anything more than a forced attempt to make the film more dramatic than it really is.
If you are really interested in the life of poets and artists, you may enjoy Sylvia, as it does have some redeeming qualities. For the rest of us that prefer a broader and more varied assortment of dramas, Sylvia has nothing to set it apart from the rest of its genre.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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