Sybil (TV Movie 2007) Poster

(2007 TV Movie)

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Sybil 2007 is a worthy successor to the original movie
indy_go_blue4412 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
FINALLY! After waiting two years, I saw Sybil (2007) this afternoon, and I have to honestly say I was much more pleased with it than I thought I'd be. It's hard not to draw parallels between the original movie and this one, but I'll try to save that for the end of this review.

SYBIL is the story of Shirley Ardell Mason (1923-1998), known as Sybil Dorsett, a woman who developed 16 different personalities, two of them male, because of child abuse at the hands of her mother. Her story and the story of her treatment by Dr Cornelia (Connie) Wilbur (1908-1992) was told in a book published in 1973 by Flora Rheta Schreiber. It was made into TV movie starring Sallie Field and JoAnn Woodward in 1976.

Sybil (2007)(hereafter S'7) follows the book more closely than the original movie. As the readers know, the story starts out with Sybil lost in a snowstorm in Philadelphia; Dr Wilbur begins to notice something strange when Sybil's fiancée Stan dumps her. The problem with breaking glass begins when Sybil breaks a bottle of patent medicine in a Willows Corner drugstore and when her cousin breaks a pickle dish and blames it on her. These are all parts of the book that never figured in the Sybil (1976) (hereafter S'76). At times the artistic license taken by screenwriter John Pielmeier doesn't jive with what's in the book. Most of it can be overlooked, although I had a problem with "her first beau." It's no worse than the liberties taken by Stewart Stern, the original screenwriter, and it did allow the writer to introduce thecontroversies that have arisen over the past 30 years.

Tammi Blanchard does an admirable job as Sybil Dorsett, the woman of 16 personalities. She was a little stiff when she first appeared in Dr Wilbur's office, and some of her early "changes" were in voice rather than in facial expressions. It was kind of hard to tell who she was, but that was the same confusion faced by the real doctor at this stage. Later her facial expressions better matched the personality, and her rapid changes from one character to another were quite believable. She was more emotional and less standoffish than the Sybil of the book, but she was a very sympathetic character and when she was showing the pain of Sybil's abuse through one of the others, and Sybil's own shame, confusion and pain, she brought tears to my eyes.

Jessica Lange also did a good job as Dr Wilbur. While many of her scenes focused on her conflict with colleagues, one in particular being the psychiatrist who recommended Sybil to her, her scenes with Sybil were played well. She showed the good doctor to be a maverick who not only fought for her patients' mental health and healing, but also fought a battle against the male establishment, which is an unfortunate truth faced by women professionals in the 1950s (and still to some degree.) Jo Beth Williams portrayed Hattie Dorsett, the schizoid woman who was responsible for Sybil's problems. I must mention S'76 here: Jo Beth is no Martine Bartlett. On the other hand most of her scenes were short and viewed as flashbacks. There's no long Christmas scene in the kitchen and no piano scene; other than Sybil's father talking about her catatonic episode and subsequent diagnosis of schizophrenia, we don't get to learn much about her and why she did the horrible things she did to her daughter.

There were several more secondary characters from the book, but none of them had very big roles. Sybil's father, Ramone (her last boyfriend), Grandma's lap, a cousin... all very short and mostly forgettable.

I'm not qualified to go into production values. I thought some of the scenes were shot pretty dark and kind of hard to see. Other than Willard, I didn't have any trouble understand the dialog.

Inevitably this film is going to be compared with S'76, which in my opinion is one of the best psycho-medical dramas ever made. Sally Field was Sybil and Jo Ann Woodward was Dr Wilbur. But I honestly think that if I had seen S'7 before S'76, I'd be making comparisons between Tammy's character and Sally's. I rarely saw acting from Tammy; I felt that she was deeply into the part and I was quickly drawn into the story. I can't say quite as much for Jessica, but I also won't say she didn't do a good job and from what I've learned about Dr Wilbur, she may have even been closer to the part. S'76 was also pioneering and didn't have to present the controversies that have arisen since 1976, which, in the movie, were distracting at times but at least the producers dealt with it honestly. On first viewing, I didn't notice any really strong and unforgettable scenes like the two "piano" scenes of the original, but the last scene of Sybil and Dr Wilbur together is quite powerful.

Ultimately whether or not Sybil was a) a woman possessing 16 different personalities, or b) a brilliant hysteric who was able to role play various personalities at will and well enough to convince Dr Wilbur she was a multiple personality is left up to the viewer.

I give this show an 8 and highly recommend Sybil '76 fans to watch it. You may not like Tammy or Jessica as well; you will find flaws in the story, but it was a good watch and other than it being too short (85 minutes) I think they did a very good job. PARENTAL WARNING: It's much like S'76, in that most of the actual abuse is inferred, but there are still some scenes that would be very disturbing for preteens.
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The evil that man do
ctnegative20 August 2007
I always thought that the scariest things in the world, among everything shown in terror movies, were not monsters, supernatural, or things like that. It's people, and all the terrible things that they can do to each other. And the everlasting scars that are left, so hard to heal. That's what comes to my mind, after a short reflection. How much of the story is real, we may never know. It's highly controversial, and it seems that all the people involved are not around anymore. But it doesn't really matter. Even considering this history as a fiction, it looks frightfully real, because it brings us the memory of so many people whose minds and lives have been shattered through child abuse. On the other hand, it does remind us of the amazing difference that a single person who care can do. Anyway, it's a great and touching movie, with a nice production and great acting. Certainly worth a close look!
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Jessica and Tammy Deliver Standout Performances
jakephall7 December 2010
Why this remake which is far more truthful than the 1976 MOW starring Sally Field didn't get more attention is a mystery? Lifetime has aired it a few times in 2010, since CBS failed give it a huge MOW, when it was finally aired in the US. Hopefully it will be released on DVD soon, if you have the chance it is worth watching. Tammy Blanchard and Jessica Lange deserved Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG, nominations for this gem. Both actresses bring emotional depth and humility to the characters they are playing. The subject matter is heart breaking, as the story unfolds and you learn all that Sybil has survived in her past. Her life is unfolding and she finally meets someone who can help. As they begin treatment, both women grow and face their deepest fears. Bringing darkness to the light and helping make history.
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A nice companion to S-76
brendanchenowith9 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was intrigued as to how this movie would turn out as it was only half the length of the original. Jessica Lange and JoBeth Williams are two of my favorite actresses, and Tammy Blanchard was brilliant as a young Judy Garland, so I was looking forward to this, and was glad CBS finally decided to broadcast it.

I'm a big S-76 fan, but I wasn't disappointed in the new version - especially since some bits from the book were illustrated, although there was no Teddy Reeves. Instances such as Hattie having her way with the girls and her garden defecation were revealed. I would guess NBC didn't even want to touch such instances 30 years ago.

I couldn't picture Hattie without the frumpy build and the wild white bun hairdo, but JoBeth Williams was perfect for the role. I do think her acting was a bit over the top, especially at the piano scene with her face contorted in wild rage, screaming "you better hold it", and it was the same thing when she was brandishing the buttonhook in Sybil's face. A scene with the evil cousin purposely smashing a crystal bowl and blaming Sybil because she wanted to see Hattie go nuts reminded me of a scene from a "broads-behind-bars" movie with the sadistic warden making life a nightmare for the naive, misunderstood "good" inmate.

The girls playing Sybil at various ages gave very sweet, touching, heartbreaking performances which made you really hate the mother. In contrast, Natasha Ryan in "S-76" was so numb, it seemed like she didn't care what Hattie did to her. The one time Ryan exhibited any emotion, screaming at the sight of a buttonhook, was done so badly, the screaming was overdubbed and it didn't even synch with the movement of her mouth. Ryan's lack of enthusiasm came across and it was tempting to cheer on Martine Bartlett: "God, that kid is so creepy, no wonder 'mom' goes nuts on her - I would, too." Jessica Lange was wonderful as Dr. Wilbur - funny at first when she's arguing about why she should take on another patient, and very warm, loving and supportive when treating Sybil. There was also a nice bit between Blanchard and Lange when Sybil is being made aware of her personalities, listening to excerpts of session tapes. Sybil is traumatized by hearing her other voices and is begging Wilbur to turn off the tapes, then says Vicki has a bad French accent, making Wilbur laugh - and us, too. Hattie also orders her to stop speaking in "that phony French", when Sybil dissociates into Vicki.

Better than S-76? No, because it didn't follow that format and shouldn't be compared to it. This is really a nice companion piece, mostly in that each movie has a little something missing from the other. I also enjoyed the more casual interactions between doctor and patient.

I'm uncertain as to whether CBS will ever re-broadcast this, as they only put it on to fill space on a summer Saturday night, with hardly any promotion, but I'll get the DVD when it's released. I just hope it doesn't take another 30 years. This movie deserves to be seen. It did lose a point with me for being too encapsulated.
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A very well acted reselling of the story, SYBIL
UNOhwen14 May 2012
First, let me say one thing about people who don't feel the story of 'Sybil' is 'real,' or 'true;'

You must remember; the original film was a version of the book, Sybil, which in turn was made from the work-notes of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, who - to shield her patient's privacy - had to...'adjust' the story.

In other words, the film was not simple 'here-say' - it was a 3rd (or, perhaps 4th) generation of the story removed from the source.

Whatever the case may be, the CORE of the story - the HORRORS Sybil (Shirley Ardell Mason (1923–1998) endured, were so, so overwhelmingly sad.

I - like a many of you - had seen the original SYBIL, with Sally Field, and, for many years, I liked it (it's weird to say 'like' about such a harrowing tale).

The hall-of-mirrors-from-hell tale - and Ms. Fields' riveting performance - stayed indelibly etched in my mind.

As the original version was made-for-TV in the '70's, the true horrors Sybil endured had to be 'cleaned up.'

But, what was there, was a terrifying story of a young woman's tortured life.

I only saw this version for the 1st time a year ago, and, I've always on the fence, when I hear 'remake,' because, they're usually inferior.

This was one of the few exceptions.

As embodied by Tammy Blanchard, this SYBIL (who does somewhat have a similarity to Ms, Fields' Sybil) is touch more rounded.

Ms. Blanchard gives a brilliant performance (why isn't Ms. Blanchard's name better known?!?! She CAN act!), and, as the strict confines which were imposed on first filmed version of this story have loosened, much more of the horrors Sybil endured at the hands of her mother are shown (in this case, it helps the viewer better understand the depths of depravity done to Sybil and the damage incurred, and it's even more poignant).

Jessica Lange's Dr. Wilbur - while I don't think much 'better' than Ms. Woodward's performance, definitely is portrayed by Ms. Lange with enough strength to help sustain - not only the drama, but, to portray a person (who happens to be a doctor) who Sybil can actually count on, and whose VERY in-depth support of Sybil enabled Sybil to be 'born whole' and live.

I remember when the original version was shown, how, soon after, seeing people reading the book was a common sight. The story is just so shocking, so unusual (remember, at the time - before Springer, et al, when people's problems are flaunted EVERYWHERE, this WAS an almost 'unique' story).

I commend the performers, and the entire production, as a good example of a remakes which can actually dig deeper, enhance a story, rather than the all-to-common ripping off the original.

This Sybil - more than amply - stands on it's own (VERY) strong legs.
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hmcnemo7 November 2018
The plot line is decent I'll give it that. But I think it's a bad movie. I give movies a fair chance and this one I shouldn't have. Do not recommend
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