Sybil (2007 film)

Infobox Film
name = Sybil

image_size =
caption = Tammy Blanchard and Jessica Lange
director = Joseph Sargent
producer = Michael Mahoney
writer = John Pielmeier
Based on the book by Flora Rheta Schreiber
narrator =
starring = Tammy Blanchard
Jessica Lange
music = Charles Bernstein
cinematography = Donald M. Morgan
editing =
distributor = Warner Bros. Television
released = May 27, 2007 (Italy)
June 7, 2008 (USA)
runtime =
country = United States
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id =
imdb_id = 0499260

"Sybil" is a 2007 American docudrama directed by Joseph Sargent. The teleplay by John Pielmeier is based on the 1973 book of the same name by Flora Rheta Schreiber, which chronicled the true story of Shirley Ardell Mason, who suffered from multiple personality disorder. This is the second adaptation of the book, following an Emmy Award-winning 1976 miniseries that was broadcast by NBC.

In January 2006, "The Hollywood Reporter" announced CBS had greenlighted the project, [ [ "The Hollywood Reporter", January 18, 2006] ] but it was shelved after completion. The film was released in Italy, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Norway, and Hungary before finally being broadcast in the US by the network on June 7, 2008.

Plot synopsis

Troubled Columbia University art student Sybil Dorsett is referred to psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur by Dr. Atcheson, a male colleague who believes the young woman is suffering from female hysteria. As her treatment progresses, Sybil confesses she frequently experiences blackouts and cannot account for large blocks of time. Wilbur helps her recall a childhood in which she suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her disturbed mother Hattie, and eventually 16 different personalities varying in age and personal traits begin to emerge. Chief among them is Vicki, a French woman who explains to Dr. Wilbur how she shepherds the various parts of Sybil's whole. Frustrating the therapist are objections raised by her associates, who suspect she has influenced her patient into creating her other selves, and Sybil's father, who refuses to admit his late wife was anything other than a loving mother.

Production notes

The film was shot on the campus of Dalhousie University in Halifax and in the town of Dartmouth in Nova Scotia.

Principal cast

*Jessica Lange ..... Dr. Cornelia Wilbur
*Tammy Blanchard ..... Sybil Dorset
*JoBeth Williams ..... Hattie Dorsett
*Ron White ... Dr. Atcheson

Critical reception

In his review in the "New York Times", Neil Genzlinger noted, "The film has fine performances by Tammy Blanchard in the title role and Jessica Lange as the psychiatrist. It is crisply told and full of powerful scenes. But it is always battling that earlier "Sybil" . . . [The] story, so revelatory and startling when it was new, is today likely to have the feel of an acting exercise. It is impossible to watch Ms. Blanchard run through her repertory of voices and facial contortions . . . without judging her acting technique. She gets an A, but the viewer’s investment in the story suffers." [ [ "New York Times", June 7, 2008] ]

Mary McNamara of the "Los Angeles Times" said, "The new "Sybil" . . . is told at such high speed that it becomes more psychiatric variety show - for our next number, Sybil as a boy! - than the careful excavation of a mind through the life-changing relationship of patient and doctor, which made the original so unforgettable . . . It's essentially a two-woman play, and these particular women do the absolute best they can with what is given them. Lange's Wilbur is unflinching and unflappable, with equal parts compassion and ambition, empathy and bitterness, while Blanchard is a marvel of physical and vocal elasticity, changing into 16 people, often several in the same conversation. The problem is the almost breakneck pace which requires that all emotional nuance be jettisoned in favor of showing the range of the personalities." [ [,0,6218103.story "Los Angeles Times", June 7, 2008] ]

In "Newsweek", Joshua Alston said the film "has the infectious scrappiness of a community-theater troupe, one that isn't that great but has enough conviction to make up for its lack of self-awareness . . . And while I wouldn't watch "Sybil" a second time, it was raucous, nostalgic fun. I could say it's the worst movie I've seen in some time, but I'd prefer to say it's the best at being not good." [ [ "Newsweek", June 9, 2008] ]

Roger Catlin of the "Hartford Courant" observed the film "is at once a little more true to the original but also, at half the time, rushed . . . Tammy Blanchard has the role that could be either a career-making tour de force or a showoffy mess and pulls it off." [ [,0,147440.column "Hartford Courant", June 7, 2008] ]

In the "Times Herald-Record", Kevin McDonough said, "Sybil" seems to have been written to challenge and reward the serious performer. It is an actor's dream and potential nightmare, a role that calls upon the player to shift voice, tone and personality on a dime . . . Blanchard acquits herself well. She does not eclipse the memory of [Sally Field| [Sally] Field] 's Sybil, but it is a performance to remember . . . The saddest thing about this "Sybil" is its place in the schedule. A film like this used to be showcased during sweeps, not hidden away on a Saturday night in June like some poor relation . . . CBS has shown the movie, its stars and the story extreme disrespect with this treatment." [ [ "Times Herald-Record", June 7, 2008] ]

Matthew Gilbert of the "Boston Globe" wondered, "Why bother taking on a classic with limited popular potential when the remake is doomed to pale creatively next to the original? I'm thinking maybe this retelling of the true story . . . was hatched to give actress Tammy Blanchard a big vehicle to suit her big talent . . . Otherwise, this "Sybil" doesn't quite justify itself . . . The remake feels more like a sketch of a troubled life than a fully realized portrait, which also detracts from its power to break your heart." [ [ "Boston Globe", June 7, 2008] ]


External links

* [ CBS website]
*imdb title|id=0499260|title=Sybil

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