mrmidwest (mrmidwest) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,
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Blanchard’s performances lead worthwhile ‘Sybil’



Why would CBS remake “Sybil,” (premiering tonight at 8 on CBS), the renowned 1976 made-for-TV movie starring Sally Field as a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder?

The answer is simple: Tammy Blanchard.

The actress, perhaps best known for playing Judy Garland in “My Life as Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” turns in an amazing performance as the damaged, fragile Sybil. Deftly veering between Sybil’s 16 distinct personalities, Blanchard is positively mesmerizing to watch.

In a single scene, she’s young, innocent Ruthie, tough guy Sid, angry Peggy or Victoria, the carefree Frenchwoman who is in charge of all the personalities. And each personality is so well-crafted and distinct that the viewer never loses sight of who Sybil is at any time. After this performance, it’s hard to imagine there’s any role Blanchard couldn’t take on.

Equally excellent is Jessica Lange, in the Joanne Woodward role, as Sybil’s therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur. Early in the movie, Sybil’s problems are dismissed by her male doctor as female troubles. “She’ll be easy, I promise, she’s a little hysterical, you’re good at that,” he tells Dr. Wilbur to convince her to take on Sybil as a patient.

Sybil blacks out and loses days at a time. She breaks glass and can’t quite put her past together. When Dr. Wilbur does diagnose her troubled patient, she is mocked by her colleagues. “I hope they each pay you separately,” a co-worker says when she tells him about Sybil’s 16 personalities.

Lange is uncompromising as the doctor determined to help her fragile patient. She delicately explains to Sybil what’s happening to her. “Sybil, when you black out, when you have these fugues that we talk about, someone else comes in and takes your place.” The friendship between these two characters is the grounding force of the movie.

As Sybil’s horrifically abusive mother, JoBeth Williams does what she can with her thankless and disturbing role. The movie may have benefited from a more linear storytelling format and less busy storytelling devices. They only get in the way of Lange’s and Blanchard’s beautiful performances.

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