Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Justin Chadwick
Running Time: 1:55
for mature thematic elements,
sexual content and some violent images.
The Other Boleyn Girl was more disturbing than I thought it would be, but was still an engaging film.
To try and raise the family's nobility, Anne Boleyn is pimped out by her uncle to try and seduce the King and become his mistress. Unfortunately, the King is smitten with Anne's younger sister Mary, who is already happily married. But what the King wants, the King gets, and soon Mary is his mistress. Mary quickly falls in love with the King, but his attentions are soon turned in the direction of Anne. Although Mary produces a son for the King, he disowns her and sets his sights on the feisty Anne. But Anne has more than just bedding the King on her mind. She wants to become Queen. But to do so involves an entire shakeup of England and a break from the Catholic Church, which will have effects still felt to this day. Anne eventually gets her wish, but at a price.
I didn't know much about the story of Anne Boleyn before seeing the movie, and while the film takes liberties with what actually happened, it seems like most of the broad strokes are correct. Going in to the film I thought The Other Boleyn Girl would be a sad romantic drama about two sisters battling for the affections of one man. Instead what I got was a movie with one sweet sister who gets caught up in something she never wanted to be a part of, and a second conniving sister who would step over anyone and anything to get what she wants. And the pure evil that comes out of Anne is extremely scary. As the movie opens we see her as a bright, beautiful, headstrong young woman but by the time the movie ends, she has gone completely off the deep end. King Henry goes through a transformation as well, going from noble King (with adulterous needs) to also falling off the deep end. Only Mary remains somewhat constant, starting off sweet and ending up relatively unscathed.
The film essentially rests on the shoulders of Natalie Portman, who plays Anne. Scarlett Johansson's Mary is nice enough, but looks lost throughout most of the film. She doesn't have much power in her performance and sits in the background, only appearing when needed. Eric Bana's King Henry was a strong performance but he was mostly reacting to Portman instead of carrying anything himself. Portman on the other hand completely takes over the film. She is certainly the most accomplished of the three stars and it shows. She can play sweet and evil at the same time, throwing barbs and insults around while making them sound like she's giving someone cake. In lesser hands the role of Anne could have been over the top, but Portman controls her, slowly pushing her over the edge.
Visually the film was entertaining, although there were way too many scenes of the sky. The director must be in love with shooting buildings from low angles so we can see the clouds above. It makes for a nice shot, but it must have happened at least 10 times during the movie, which made it overkill. The costumes and locations were fairly elegant. The dialogue was a bit cheesy at times but then again, the story was almost too much to believe. But I read up on what actually happened (as best as historians can figure) and as I said, a lot of it seemed to have occurred. The film overstates and plays a lot with the facts but it is all based in reality. Mary did in fact become the King's mistress and produce him a son, and Anne did try to steal him away. She did convince him to annul his marriage to his wife, Queen Catherine, an act which led to England breaking away from the Catholic Church. And there is one more disturbing act that almost took place, which happens late in the film. I won't give it away because the scene is both extremely disturbing and scary and leads to the eventual end of Anne. But it was something the real Anne Boleyn was accused of (although most historians don't believe it was something she did).
The reason the movie wasn't a great film was simply because outside of Portman, no one else captivated me. They were all passable, but no one could compete with Portman's presence. It was as if she was acting on a different level than everyone else. The scenes without her were very plain and uninteresting. As soon as she would reappear the film would pick up the pace, but the rest of the cast would tend to stand around and watch her. I think a stronger cast would have helped raise the level of the entire film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, even though it turned out to be a lot different than I imagined it would be. Natalie Portman completely steals the movie and her performance is the main reason it was entertaining.
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