Slyvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, the book that makes every guy cringe when they find it adorning a female conquest’s bookshelf, is getting dragged out of women’s lit class again, this time by Julia Stiles and the Plum Pictures trio of Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray and Daniela Taplin Lundberg. A watershed work exploring chronic depression as it affects skirts, the book was previous transferred to the screen by Larry Peerce in 1979; but, since Peerce may have been the lousiest director in history of film, no one remembers his version (even though it starred the great Julie Harris).
Stiles, who will star as the morose Esther Greenwood, doesn’t have a director yet for the comedy smash of 2008, but she does have a screenwriter in Tristine Skyler. Actually, I saw Getting to Know You, the movie Skyler wrote with her sister Lisanne, and, all told, it wasn’t the worst movie of 1999; that said, it ran a very close second to Stigmata. But eight years is a lot of sludge under the Mississippi River Bridge (labored); it’s possible Tristine has blossomed into a wonderful writer. Though this doesn’t quite explain why she’s bothering with a one-note downer like The Bell Jar, perhaps she’s hit upon an inventive way to modernize it.
It’s interesting that Stiles, a rather bright presence in the right role, would choose The Bell Jar as her first adult star vehicle. After impressing early in her career with 10 Things I Hate About You, Hamlet (where she played a pretty good Ophelia opposite Ethan Hawke’s brooding Dane in Michael Almereyda’s severely underrated adaptation) and State and Main, she got lost in a series of awful and/or uninspired films. Only her supporting turn in Stuart Gordon’s Edmond hinted at any kind of maturity. So if she feels the need to depress her gender all over again with The Bell Jar just to reestablish herself as one of the better actresses of her generation, maybe this film will be worth the annoyance of having your girlfriend not talk to you for an uneasy twelve-hour period.
But I’ll be avoiding this sucker like I should’ve avoided The Hours.