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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Sylvia

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig
Director: Christine Jeffs
Rated: R
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Amira Casar, Blythe Danner, Lucy Davenport, Michael Gambon, Jared Harris, Eliza Wade

Review by Susan Granger
2 stars out of 4

Not to be confused with A.R. Gurney's delightful play about a dog, this "Sylvia" is a bleak, depressing dirge about the poet Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) who suffered through a volatile marriage to British Poet Laureate Edward (Ted) Hughes (Daniel Craig) before committing suicide in 1963. "Dying is an art, like everything else," she wrote. "I do it exceptionally well."

Their story begins in 1956 at Cambridge, where they meet at a school dance. It's literary lust at-first-sight as Sylvia obsessively refers to Ted as "the black marauder." Soon, they're married and moving to America, where she accepts a teaching job. "She likes you because you're dangerous," Sylvia's mother (Blythe Danner) tells Ted. But Sylvia's also bitterly resentful about being overshadowed by her husband's fame and overcome with jealousy about his flirtations with other women. "I love you," he reminds her, but one is hard-pressed to figure out why since Sylvia comes across as a self-absorbed, pitiful creature. Nevertheless, they return to England, where Sylvia - now living in Devon with their two children - discovers Ted's not only having an affair with a mutual friend but he's also the father of the woman's unborn child.

Sketchily written by John Brownlow and directed by New Zealand-based Christine Jeffs ("Rain"), it's a Gwyneth Paltrow performance piece, particularly considering Daniel Craig's utter lack of charisma. Clearly, Sylvia Plath suffered depression from age nine, when her father died, and attempted suicide long before she met Ted Hughes, although her frenzied writings seem to blame him for her lifelong angst. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Sylvia" is a gloomy, grim 5, offering little to add to the literary legacy of either Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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