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  • Jameson Parker And Marilyn Hassett are the screen's most unbelievable couple since John Travolta and Lily Tomlin. Larry Peerce's direction wavers uncontrollably between black farce and Roman tragedy. Robert Klein certainly think it's the former and his self-centered performance in a minor role underscores the total lack of balance and chemistry between the players in the film. Normally, I don't like to let myself get so ascerbic, but The Bell Jar is one of my all-time favorite books, and to watch what they did with it makes me literally crazy.
  • This movie is one of the few I actually bought several copies of. Though it is circa 1979, it is not dated, and so much more effective than the recent "Sylvia" film, which is dominated by Gwyneth Paltrow's persona.

    Marilyn Hassett plays the principal role, and does an excellent job. She does not overshadow the personality of Sylvia Plath, who was an interesting, conflicted and brilliant individual.

    The story follows Sylvia at Smith College, where a young Donna Mitchell ("Mona Lisa Smile" mother to Kirsten Dunst), plays her best friend. The scenery invokes New England autumn, promise and hope. Julie Harris is perfect as Aurelia Plath, Sylvia's mother. We can almost feel Sylvia's disdain, as her mother reminds Sylvia ...""you got nothing but straight A's....oh, except for deportment"... Her mother is always at her, and this mirrors Sylvia's eventual faltering self-image.

    The story progresses as she wins a scholarship to NY where ..."ëvery one envied me that summer"... However, there is the fateful backdrop of the Rosenbergs, the Eisenhower era, and Sylvia's doubts about her future. We see fashion shows, jewelry, cosmetics, and the fear Sylvia has of what awaits her. One should also read the book to get her true impressions, which are quite astute, reflecting women's roles in the late 1950's.

    Since it was the late 50's Sylvia was expected to marry, but does not see this as a viable solution, indeed it is a hindrance to her writing career. She is on the brink of decision, when she has the ultimate breakdown; I will not delineate the detail, you must watch the brilliantly constructed story, which leads her to her decision. The main issue I liked was that her life was shown, not in conjunction with a man (like the more recent movie) but how SHE was affected, and what life meant to her.
  • I saw this movie when it first came out, before I had read the book. It's impossible to capture the immensity of Esther's pain as she staggers toward oblivion, but watching the movie gave me a definite sense of a life in utter chaos. Yes, the film is flawed, but in my mind it stands alone as a separate entity. Marilyn Hassett's portrayal of Esther is terrifying--I haven't empathized so completely with a character on the brink of dementia since Kathleen Quinlan as Deborah in "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden." The supporting cast is equally solid--it's not their fault that there's just too much ground for one little movie to cover. Donna Mitchell stays in my mind as creating, in Joan's character, a young woman as doomed and in as much mental disarray as Esther. Mitchell is an amazingly underrated (and under-used) actress. I'm not sure if our boys would have given it two thumbs up, but it remains one of my closet classics.
  • This is one of the worst films I've ever seen. I looked into it mainly out of a morbid curiosity since I loved the novel, and I wish I hadn't. I turned it off after a little less than an hour, though I wanted to turn it off after five minutes. I wish I had. It disregards the novel a lot and changes all sorts of factors. Unless the film managed to redeem itself in the last 50 or so minutes (which would be impossible) I would in no way recommend this. Its an insult to one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. I don't think, as many people say that it is, that "The Bell Jar" is necessarily unfilmable, but this particular rendition could have been done without. I'd almost like to see this one day in the hands of a director and screenwriter who can do it justice.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I read the book The Bell Jar when I was 17 a couple years ago, and enjoyed it even though I didn't fully understand it. I understand it better just from the experiences I've had since then, putting myself in the context of my memories of reading it. I had heard about the movie version and that it wasn't a satisfying adaptation, and after seeing it I only half agree with that assessment of it.

    Certainly, it had flaws, most notably it's continued attempts to identify Esther Greenwood as Sylvia Plath directly, even having Marilyn Hassett read narration that took excerpts directly from some of Plath's most famous poems, including "Daddy," "Lady Lazarus," and "Mad Girl's Love Song." While it's true that Plath based the book upon herself and her experiences, the book stands alone as a work of it's own. We don't need to know anything about Plath to appreciate it, and that's how the movie should have presented it. By connecting it directly to Plath, they sensationalize her and her death, and indeed the whole movie is guilty of oversensationalizing.

    I'm going from memory, but I don't remember the novel's Esther as going quite so crazy as Hassett's character does in this film. I don't remember her writing "gone to see daddy, good bye" dramatically with lipstick on the mirror, and I don't remember her writing a note which implied Esther had dissociative personality disorder. The screenwriters didn't seem to know what exactly Esther's problem was, so they inserted that ridiculous and inconsistent bit, as well as other dialogue that implied that Esther was schizophrenic, which she was not.

    However, despite the movie's flaws, it creates the atmosphere well. Hassett turns in a believable and talented, if sometimes over-the-top performance as Esther, a brilliant university student in 1953, torn between following her dream of being a poet and becoming a traditional housewife, as girls were expected and expected themselves to become in the 50's. She is treated as an object by men, critisized by bitter, self-rightous women for her intelligence, and her mother is in denial that her daughter is cracking under the pressure placed upon her.

    The other performances are excellent mostly, except for Julie Harris as Esther's mother who seems a little too weak and flaky. Part of the blame lies with the screenwriters, who don't give her enough screen time to develop her character. Barbara Barrie is convincing as the bitter magazine editor who urges Esther harshly and forcefully to update her tastes in novelists and write from the point of view of the average college student.

    Donna Mitchell is powerful as Esther's good friend who is spiraling downward at the same time as she. Although they gleefully discuss the best methods of self-destruction in a bar, neither of them realizes that the other one is drowning at the same time as she. Virtually every scene with Mitchell in it is haunting, and the lesbian overtones are convincingly subtle and not overstated. I don't think the extra scene where she kills herself was necessary, but it was still effective.

    Finally, Mary Louise Weller is convincing in a small but important role as the stunning southern belle who befriends Esther but does not connect with her, and saves herself from Esther's problems by allowing herself to be pigeonholed into the same category as all the other young girls of the 50's, abandoning her dreams.

    Overall, the insertion of Plath's poetry borders on being insulting to her, and any attempt to translate her ingenious work will inevitably be imperfect and flawed, but this movie offers a powerful, moving effort and is a notable portrayal of a complex, brilliant girl's descent into madness and depression and her turbulent recovery.
  • I rented this movie from the library (it's hard to find for good reason) purely out of curiosity. I'm a huge Plath fan and this movie was a complete disappointment. The Bell Jar (1979) is by far one of the worst movies I've ever seen. The script is horrible, not because it strays from the original novel text, but because it strays without focus or intent. The scenes are ill-constructed and don't lead the viewer anywhere. What's with the hokey voice over of Plath's poetry? Lady Lazarus has little do with Greenwood's situation; Plath's poetry was completely misused. Marilyn Hassett is completely unbelievable as Esther Greenwood (or any 20 year old for that matter) partly due to casting (she was 32 during filming, the age Plath was when she DIED) and partly due to the fact that she can't act. Hassett is all emotion, no craft, no skill. The direction is mediocre; the director simply covers what's there, which isn't much. The only reason I'm giving the film a 1 is because 0 isn't an option. Sorry Sylvia, you'll have to wait for someone else to adapt your fine work into something more fitting.
  • When they say that a book is always better than the film adaptation, "The Bell Jar" is a movie that can support that opinion to its highest degree. Sylvia Plath`s American classic, "The Bell Jar", is a vivid, disturbing and brutally honest depiction of a young woman`s plunge towards insanity in the 1950`s, and it has become my favourite book of all time. The film version, however, failed miserably in trying to tranfer the book onto the big screen. The original story was cut up so badly for the film, you sometimes can`t even tell if they`re the same story. The acting by the main character`s was mediocre at best, and worst of all, the movie completely lacked the poetic and evocative spirit that made the book special. Watching "The Bell Jar" just isn`t the same as reading the book, trust me when I say the book is much better.
  • While Marilyn Hassett is a fine actress (she's absolutely wonderful as Jill Kinmont in the "Other Side of the Mountain" movies), she was totally miscast in "The Bell Jar". According to the book, the character of Esther Greenwood was nineteen, and Ms. Hassett was almost thirty-two at the time of this filming. Sylvia Plath's novel is a haunting, harrowing, timeless classic, and the film reflected none of that. It was a mess. Read the book instead.
  • Remember seeing this film years ago and it had a lasting impression on me! I remember the wonderful performance of Marilyn Hassett as Esther and Julie Harris as her mother! The breakdown of the main character was horrorfing and so well acted! I wish this was on video! Whatever happened to Marilyn Hassett she had a real promising career and what beautiful hair!
  • I greatly enjoy the novel and the poetry of Sylvia Plath, but this movie does a great disservice to the book. I had seen the movie a number of years ago at the theater, and at this moment I am sort of half watching it on late night broadcast TV (which has done nothing to improve my opinion of the movie). The lead character comes across as whiny and irritating. The acting of the cast in general is pretty poor. It seems a shame that such a fine novel by such a complex and tragic author received the mediocre treatment given it by this film. Read the book!
  • i saw this a few months ago and i hope i never will have to again...i was not expecting something so hideously bad and corny....julie harris couldn't even save it...she was the only one who acted with some dignity...everything in the movie is jumbled and done wrong...the book is amazing, don't get me wrong, i love it to death..it's one of my all-time favourites, absolutely brilliant...but i find it sad how terrible the only movie it was made into is....i could've done a better job with the idea and i don't even know the first thing about moviemaking
  • Just as all boys who become readers as a result of CATCHER IN THE RYE and later are either discovering Phillip Roth or "rebel" types, the same goes for the adult woman emerging from the BELL JAR....EVERY sort of bright or pseudo intellectual girl is introduced to this book which becomes their stepping stone into the neurotic hormonal changes into WOMAN. That is trite and will annoy most of you, but it has been true for a long time. Even Liz Taylor once was going to do the film when young but could not get anyone to finance the "downer" aspect of this terrific work. Of course, a film with a mental narrative is almost impossible to make into a good film. Joan Didion's PLAY IT AS IT LAYS was a fantastic film of a very little known subject....filmmaking and the "biz", but a good portrait of a woman and Tuesday Weld was mind blowing in it.Just as the boys went on into the literary world to Mailer, Kesey, Tom Wolfe,and others went on to the political savants Vidal etc.;the women did the Virginia Woolf and offshoots of downer hood and independence and the intellectuals of both genders met in the middle with earlier mentioned Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, but the bump in the rug was when Erich Segal had such a hit with LOVE STORY and both sexes were now trapped by this silly little book and started reading together because they became "adult" enough to discuss each others' favorites. Now, are new literary heroes are emerging through politics or trash and some heavy handed intellectuals or NO READING at all---compared to the days when one had up to three or four books going at once.There are so many writers from foreign lands who are doing better work because the world is so bizarrely transitioning into a heavy handed place to create and kids are using electronic communication devices which has played havoc with a lot of good storytellers who cannot get a publisher and we almost know what our old "favorites" are going to write about..There are a lot more books and writers than I make it appear....but, it is still frustrating to go into a store and come out empty handed because it is quite a luxury to spend $25-40 when you are having financial setbacks or one struggles to justify not reading a great book they have at their apartment or home bookshelves which are bursting. Try Lorca or some Chinese writers by going to the public library first.