|The Bell Jar|
|Directed by||Larry Peerce|
Jarrold T. Brandt Jr.|
Mike Todd, Jr.
|Screenplay by||Marjorie Kellogg|
The Bell Jar|
by Sylvia Plath
|Music by||Gerald Fried|
|Edited by||Marvin Walowitz|
|Distributed by||AVCO Embassy Pictures|
|March 21, 1979|
The Bell Jar is a 1979 film based on Sylvia Plath's 1963 book The Bell Jar. It was directed by Larry Peerce, and stars Marilyn Hassett and Julie Harris. The story follows a young woman's summer in New York City working for a women's magazine, her return home to New England, and her subsequent psychological breakdown within the context of the difficulties of the 1950s--ranging from the Rosenbergs' execution, to the disturbing aspects of pop culture, to the distraction of predatory college boys.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times was unimpressed, stating that the film's portrayal of Esther was "disastrous [...] because it is the character's imaginative life that leads her to a collapse, and the movie barely even goes skin-deep. The audience isn't given the slightest clue about Esther's quirks, her fears, her peculiarly distorted notion of herself." The film has a "way of spelling things out ad nauseam and still not making them clear." Even where it should have flourished, like in descriptions of Esther's life in New York, "there's no satirical edge to any of this, and no dramatic edge either. It all simply plods along, en route to a nervous collapse that manages to seem perfectly unwarranted by the time it finally occurs."
After the film's release, Dr. Jane V. Anderson, a Boston psychiatrist, claimed she was portrayed as the character "Joan" and filed a lawsuit. In the film, Joan attempts to get Esther to agree to a suicide pact, an incident which is not in the book. Joan is implied to be a lesbian in Plath's novel, although this is never explicitly stated. Dr. Anderson's lawyer said the film portrayal "has grossly damaged her reputation as a practising psychiatrist and a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty."