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© 2003, Focus Features
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As an idealistic American poet living in England during her college years, Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) enjoyed her freedom and adventure, but was disheartened by the cruel reactions to her work. It was there that Sylvia met fellow poet Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig, "Road To Perdition"), and the two began a tender courtship, which eventually evolved into marriage and parenthood. But Sylvia's mental framework was fractured, and her increasing paranoia about Ted's infidelities, as well as her own creative block, festered to such a boiling point that suicide seemed like the only way out.

For starters, the film is titled "Sylvia," (IMDb listing) not "Sylvia Plath," forgoing any notion that this will be a thorough expose on the famous poet and her relationship with love, sanity, and words. Director Christine Jeffs ("Rain") angles the bio-pic on Sylvia Plath's domestic life, not her written accomplishments, which is bound to disappoint Plath fans everywhere. During the course of the picture, we do see Plath as she creates; forming a love of poetry that compensates for some of her romantic and emotional troubles. But her other endeavors, most famously her novel "The Bell Jar," are pushed to the backburner in favor of attempting to fictionalize the neuroses and seething jealousy that consumed Plath until the day she decided to end it all.

While the lack of a literary perspective is sorely missed, Plath's life more than lends itself to absorbing drama. Gwyneth Paltrow takes on the difficult role of Plath, and she does a terrific job maintaining the nagging insecurities that afflicted the poet, along with the jubilation she felt when her words connected to herself as well as the outside world. It's a typically mesmerizing performance from Paltrow, overcoming the often tiring recurrence of Plath's jealousy of her husband, Ted Hughes, as well as her deepening depression. There is no shortage of scenes depicting Plath's weakening mental state, hammered down hard by Jeffs over and over again. But Paltrow shines when the film occasionally turns either redundant or melodramatic.

I left "Sylvia" with a nagging feeling that there were pieces missing. Without the crucial literary aspects of Plath's life, "Sylvia" is more soap opera than true biographical filmmaking. And while this is a convincing drama and a flawlessly acted picture, it doesn't come together as urgently as Plath's own life.

Filmfodder Grade: B

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