June 15, 2009

Sylvia (2003)

My Ratings:
Production Design (wardrobe/hair+makeup & set design & milieu) = 7.8
Performances/Direction = 6
A friend of mine who knew that I admired Sylvia Plath and her work gave this dvd to me as a gift, thinking I would like it, but it's since been gathering dusk on the bookshelf because I didn't want to see it in fear that I might hate it. Watching biopics of people you idolize is always a tricky thing because you tend to hold a certain characterization of them in your head so when an actor's portrayal differs from your own longheld image, it can get...frustrating. Case in point, Nicole Kidman's actualization of Virginia Woolf, another favorite writer of mine, in The Hours.

I blame my sudden decision to dig out Sylvia this weekend on the fact that I'm back in Massachusetts.

Well, what's the verdict, you ask? Not good. Aversion confirmed. And not because I was expecting not to like it. I went in fully hoping to be pleasantly surprised. But the filmmakers just took so many liberties with the events of her life that I just got angry after the first 45min. But in lieu of a rant, I'll instead focus on its redeeming features, those being - the pretty colors during the first half of the movie.

The film starts off with Plath at Cambridge University, where she likes to ride her bicycle really fast through the narrow cobblestone streets and run around breathless in her black scholar's gown and pink headband and sweater set, trying to push her poems onto a seemingly impenetrable community of harsh critics. So cute.

This means that the film totally skips over Plath's "rehabilitation" at the mental institution, mentions her previous suicide only in passing and instead chose to focus on her tumultuous relationship with future husband Ted Hughes, whom she met at Cambridge.

Loving: the succession of warm-tone outfits. Sylvia was always wearing shades of pink, burgundies, and burnt siennas.

Loving: Sylvia's hairstyle. It's just so perfect.

After her marriage to Ted Hughes in England, they return to the U.S. and the following sequence takes place at Sylvia's mother's house in Massachusetts.

Notice: more lovely warm-toned dress ensembles. It makes me wish autumn were here already!

Her mother's lovely custard colored house. Loving the rose bushes and the wire trellis too.

Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow's real-life mother played Sylvia's mother in the film. I thought Blythe did a spectacular job despite only having a few minutes screen-time.

Loving: Sylvia's mother's hair. It is pinned up in the back like a normal up-do but wave in the front makes it extra special.


Sylvia and Ted spent a few years in the U.S. living in Northampton where Sylvia taught at Smith College. I think the below scenes of their beachy life are supposed to be from their days in Northampton, although I believe these were actually shot in Karitane, Otago, New Zealand.

Irregardless, I shall pretend that they really are of the Northshore. Speaking of which, I should really take a drive up there while I'm here.




The couple then moved back to England where Sylvia gave birth to two children. The following 3 screencaps are taken from their stay in the English countryside.

What gorgeous light!

Loving the country attire: the thick sweaters, the plaid skirts, the heavy wool tights.


And the rest...well, it just gets more and more depressing after this. Those of you who know the chronology of Sylvia Plath's life should know what happens in the next third of the film.

So I'll just leave you with a few more images of Gwyneth looking pretty, which she does do well at least.


Also, her desks/workspaces. Notice the bouquet of wildflowers in the glass jar in the first one. Cute.


And finally - This little toddler will just break your heart. Every moment that she was on screen, I practically fell over from all the cuteness. She makes me want a baby just so I can dress it up in cute cable-knit sweaters and plaid overalls.


I also love the color story apparent in the film, with the warm rich reds in the first section and the cool grayish-blues towards the end that also reflect the characters' mood and well-being. I haven't seen the film but it's obvious just from looking at these shots.

I love your blog! There aren't enough places to study film sets and decor and your screen captures are gorgeous. Thank you!

Yep, you're definitely right. The colors do indeed evolve from very happy, warm tones (when she was giddy with excitement after meeting and then marrying Ted) to colder/darker tones as her emotional turmoil starts to reveal itself.

Yeah, you are completely right, sometimes we expect more and we realized that is not what we are looking for, or what we expected.

Congratulations for the director and cast of this film.. thumbs up especially for the outfits!

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"nd don't get me started on stone-cold Paltrow..."

Huh? I don't recall Paltrow being "stone-cold" in this movie. I'm not a big fan of "SYLVIA", but the cast was never a problem for me.

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