THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
***1/2 (out of 5)
February 29, 2008
Natalie Portman as ANNE BOYLEYN
Scarlett Johansson as MARY BOLEYN
Eric Bana as HENRY TUDOR
Jim Sturgess as GEORGE BOLEYN
Mark Rylance as SIR THOMAS BOLEYN
Kristin Scott Thomas as LADY ELIZABETH BOLEYN
David Morrissey as THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Like many of American citizens (too many, if you ask me, and I’m in this group), I get my history from the movies. Sure, that leads to some problems, like thinking that Maximus actually battled Emperor Commodus in the ring or that Pocahontas was a smoking hot seventeen year old with the body of porn star (thanks, Disney!).
However, this deficit in my history education has made me greatly appreciate a good costume drama. And aside from the fact that the women all wore hats that looked like little houses in “The Other Boleyn Girl” (which is historically accurate, no less), the costumes looked great.
When it comes to story, “The Other Boleyn Girl” also delivers, by giving us something you normally wouldn’t see on “Masterpiece Theatre.” The story follows Anne and Mary Boleyn (Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson), whose family lives on the outside of British royalty. In order to raise the family’s standing, their father tries to get them to hook up with Henry Tudor, the King of England (Eric Bana).
It turns out that old Henry VIII is a horny little dude, and he finds entertainment in both ladies. Of course, Henry is also trying desperately to produce a male heir, and when his current wife ceases to bear children, Anne begins some meddling that changes the course of British history.
After I saw this film in an advance press screening, I heard a lot of grumbling from the different press members there. They all seemed to be annoyed with the fact that it started out as a nice, classy film and then deteriorated into a sordid mess.
However, that’s exactly what I liked about it. The movie begins like a Merchant-Ivory piece. There’s a lot of stuffiness. There’s a lot of British actors. And there’s a lot of flamboyant costumes. I’ve seen all this before.
But soon, things get interesting. Mary Boleyn is sleeping with the king. He’s trying to impregnate her sister. The crown is at conflict with the Pope because Henry wants a divorce. And there’s plot twists that involve everything from rape to incest.
Rather than being a boring, humdrum historical drama, this movie turns into a “Jerry Springer” episode from the 16th century. It was awesome that way.
Sure, I would have expected a little more generosity with the sex, considering the film’s stars. And with such uncomfortable subject matter, the film might have been better served going over the top in some scenes and grabbing an R rating. However, it had a lot more pizzazz than other period pieces of the past. At least Anne Boleyn lives up to her legend in this movie, which is more than I can say for last year’s “Marie Antoinette.”
If only history were presented in school as the soap-opera trash that it really was, then maybe kids wouldn’t get all of their education from television and movies. After all, just because these people lived in a castle doesn’t mean they didn’t belong in a trailer park.