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Sylvia (2003)

tomatometer

37

Average Rating: 5.4/10
Reviews Counted: 129
Fresh: 48 | Rotten: 81

This biopic about Sylvia Plath doesn't rise above the level of highbrow melodrama.

28

Average Rating: 5.2/10
Critic Reviews: 36
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 26

This biopic about Sylvia Plath doesn't rise above the level of highbrow melodrama.

audience

57

liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 8,313

My Rating

Movie Info

The life of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath -- one of the most celebrated literary figures of her generation -- is brought to the screen in this controversial screen adaptation. Born in Boston, MA, in 1932, Plath (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) developed a precocious talent as a writer and published her first poem when she was only eight years old. That same year, tragedy introduced itself into her life as Plath was forced to confront the unexpected death of her father. In 1950, she began studying at

R,

Drama

John Brownlow

Feb 10, 2004

$1.2M

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All Critics (137) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (81) | DVD (14)

A prestige picture that doesn't have a lot going for it beyond its serious intentions.

November 13, 2003 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Paltrow does this role exceptionally well, but it is underwritten.

November 6, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
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Cinema and poetry aren't merely disparate art forms but largely incompatible ones.

November 1, 2003 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Falls short of its goal.

October 31, 2003 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Fails to reflect the enormous complexity of the tumultuous relationship between Ted Hughes and Plath.

October 31, 2003 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

By choosing to make Hughes neither a monster nor sympathetic, the film likely will disappoint Plath acolytes while at the same time falling shy of being a revisionist interpretation of their relationship.

October 31, 2003 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A Hollywood product that exploits sickness.

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Plath might have been the stupid cow that Paltrow plays, the stubbornly ambitious, jealous demonbit genius discontent, immune to the ordinary joys of life.

November 25, 2007 Full Review | Comments (2)
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Gwyneth Paltrow is anything but engaging in this rarely interesting look at the life of author Sylvia Plath.

August 8, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Gwyneth Paltrow is a shining star and plays a faultless dramatic role.

July 20, 2004 Full Review Source: FilmFocus

Paltrow provides the depth that the script lacks, making a lot from very little.

April 20, 2004 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

When it's all said and done, Plath had the courage of her convictions, and so does this honest movie.

February 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

It lacks an incisive viewpoint and keeps us emotionally at arm's length.

January 31, 2004 Full Review Source: Daily Mail [UK]
Daily Mail [UK]

Not the last word on the subject by any means, but it is a solid entry into the canon that sensibly resists beatification or crucifixion of the Ariel poet.

January 15, 2004 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

Good as Paltrow is, Sylvia reduces an intensely brilliant, haunted writer into a weepy, morose slacker whose overriding concern is where her husband is at all hours.

January 14, 2004 Full Review Source: Hollywood.com
Hollywood.com

If movies were regulated like medications, the label for "Sylvia" would say: "Warning: This film is so depressing it will suck every ounce of holiday cheer from your soul."

December 19, 2003 Full Review Source: Des Moines Register
Des Moines Register

Well acted and seriously mounted, but Sylvia the movie is, nevertheless, very boring.

December 18, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Experience
Film Experience

Paltrow moves us as Plath, bringing poignant humanity to the character.

December 11, 2003
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Excruciatingly dull. I shouted, "Hurry up and ice yourself already!" more than a few times.

December 11, 2003
Planet Sick-Boy

Atmospheric, elegant and thoughtful.

December 5, 2003 Full Review Source: BBC.com
BBC.com

Since the filmmakers had no access to the private self as expressed in Plath's body of work, Sylvia is limited to her public life, which was her death. The result feels like art imitating life, once removed.

December 5, 2003
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A literary la-bore of love

December 1, 2003 Full Review
Pasadena Weekly

Cut through the enlightened pretense and it's Access Hollywood for people who eat pizza with a fork.

November 21, 2003 Full Review

The overwhelmingly dark tone and bleak subject matter make this one of the most difficult-to-watch films in recent memory.

November 21, 2003 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

While [the movie] catalogs the stormy ups-and-downs of their marriage, [it does] little to illuminate Plath's writing or her fragile mental state.

November 21, 2003 Full Review Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

In turning the poet's life into a package, the filmmakers have done a disservice both to her memory and to their audience.

November 21, 2003 Full Review Source: Las Vegas Weekly
Las Vegas Weekly

Audience Reviews for Sylvia

A very tender and dark little biopic that skims the surface of the sensitive and prolific poet and author Sylvia Plath. The film itself was bleak, wounding around the life of Plath, but more than anything also focused on her lover and husband Ted Hughes. Everything is dark angles and gilt mirrors with the poignant performance from lead Gwyneth Paltrow. She is yet again playing a British woman in a destructive relationship, except there is definitely a power play between herself and her husband. Both are poets, both want to be taken seriously, and both have the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. In the film Paltrow showcases Plath's irrelevancy next to her husband's broad fame among the intellectuals and middle class alike. He is dashingly handsome, and ends up romancing many of their female acquaintances, which only drives Plath madder than she already is as a result. Worse, is that he retains the fame whilst she is still struggling to write anything at all. She feels dwarfed in his huge shadow, and the film does a great job of illustrating how isolated Plath was by making her seem small among the darkness of the cinematography. There is little to no light in this entire film. Both Paltrow and her leading man, Daniel Craig, are entirely enshrouded in shadow throughout this film, even when it's supposed to be day. When the sun shines, it's bleak and oppressive,which was highly unrealistic, and gave us the feeling that Plath must have gone through a period of listless hatred, even in the company of her two children. Her erratic behavior lent little in the film, except for the brief scene in the beginning, but she does confide her feelings to an ardent supporter, played by the great character actor Jared Harris. What doesn't work in this film is that there isn't any buildup to Plath's suicide. The ending feels anticlimactic, mostly because her husband isn't assigned any dimensions except that of a vicarious jerk. He flits in and out of the story, only to give her children and make her miserable, but at the end he's only a face in the crowd of onlookers. There was nothing traumatic about this film, nothing to cling to Plath as a person, or the ideals of her work. There just could have been so much more done with the script and the way it was shot, and that really was just underwhelming for me as a viewer.
March 9, 2012
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

This movie was very interesting. It was a bit dry at points, but was so intriguing that it kept my complete attention. The psychology of the two main characters was amazing, and the movie was done brilliantly. Also, seeing Paltrow in a new role like this was phenomenal, and very surprising. I think that she did a wonderful job depicting this very, very sad woman. Kudos!
December 13, 2010
itsjustme2004

Super Reviewer

"sylvia" is a mighty bio-piece of the legendary poetess sylvia plath who terminated her own life by sticking her head into an oven, but mainly about her famous/infamous relationship with british laureate ted hughes who firstly achieved fame by his "hawk in the rain"...personally i absolutely cannot buy into the movie's premise that this is one of the most essential romances in 20th century...but to appreciate "sylvia", you've got to hypnotize yourself with such notion.

so sylvia plath is a genius woman who's been obssessed with death after her dad passed suddenly when she was 9, then this young lady with such explosively sparkling intelligence falls under the spell of talented ted hughes who has the magnetism to frighten her off with challenging attractiveness as sylvia's mom puts it bluntly. except hughes' extraordinary gift as a poet, he has nothing adequately made for an ideal husband or father: he's a womanizer, an egoist whose priority is not family but his own recognition and he cannot really offer any solid tenderness to her except some momentary stormy passion. in several scenes of his infidelity, he even angers at her then returns to her later with a brief "sorry, i love you" but still keeps on the same mistakes afterwards. but how about sylvia herself? she's also quite a difficult person with some serious symptoms of paranoia and some severe torments of her death wishes, not easy to get along with, either. it proves one fatal point that if two strong egos build a bond together, the union's doomed to collide into the ruin of one side which is more brittle with stubborn frailty. besides, why brilliant woman likes to be with such arrogant man to be your "black marauder" (as sylvia herself dubs it in her poem) who mostly takes and rarely gives? why not appreciative gentleman who admires the soils you step upon as talented man always marries submissive woman who's easy to handle?

gwyneth paltrow amazes me with her showcasing performances, and before i only thought of her as someone who makes her success by dubbing herself with a tangibly conventional east-coast glamour, a grace-kelly-wanna-be. the other surprise would be daniel craig as ted hughes, he's much more appealing as hughes than his later smashing role as millennium james bond. his ruggedness and ballistic energy are all demonstrated quite well as his winsome qualities for a leading man. craig serves an effective purpose to romanticize ted hughes in numerous smoldering love scenes with paltrow, and a sizzling feverish spunk could be felt upon him then somehow you could comprehend why she's so much into him. daniel craig's never been as sensual as he is in "sylvia", but since he was not so well-famed then so the focus of "sylvia" is still majorly on paltrow as her vehicle.

in a nutshell, calling the relationship of ted and sylvia one of the essential romances or great loves in 20th century is a hypocritical and absurd idea in spite of all the engrossing intensities the leads have projected on screen, even by watching the movie itself, you could feel this match is bad sass tailored by a woman's compulsively masochistic drive, her own strong need of self-victimization, no wonder of her choice over ted hughes whose second wife also commits sucide in the same way as sylvia plath: head in the oven.

besides, it is spoiling enough to have all these literary feuds posed by their separate enthusiastic readers that include those who accuse hughes as chauvinistic asshole who tortures sylvia and those who condemn plath as abrasive psychobitch whose haunting intimidations push her lover away. additionally, some controversial editing problems on hughes' manipulated erase of evidence over sylvia's diaries and parts of her words against him aren't quite plesant to dig into as well. so, wouldn't you find it odd to make an epic romance on a couple of such obvious discord???
July 31, 2009
dietmountaindew
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

    1. Sylvia Plath: The truth finds me. The truth loves me.
    – Submitted by In Your D (22 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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