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The Other Boleyn Girl
A 16th century soup opera.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson on the Set of "The Other Boleyn Girl."
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $30,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

October 22nd, 2007: Based on a novel by Philippa Gregory the story revolves around the ferociously ambitious Boleyn sisters, Mary (Natalie Portman) and Anne (Scarlett Johansson), who are rivals for the bed and heart of 16th century English King Henry VIII (Eric Bana).

What to Expect: The Tudor dynasty has been getting quite a bit of attention in Hollywood lately. There is the Showtime show Tudors and Hollywood movies including the Elizabeth franchise and The Other Boleyn Girl. The dynasty is one of the most dynamic royal families in English history, but that is not why we are so interested in them. The reason that we are so fascinated with the Tudors centuries after they ruled is how truly dysfunctional the family was. The royal court was constantly full of intrigue, betrayal and good old fashioned sex, especially the court of King Henry VIII. Henry, in just a 38 year rule, managed to go through six wives and countless mistresses. The Other Boleyn Girl will focus Mary Boleyn's time in the royal court from her arrival as a little girl until the execution of her sister Anne. Even though the movie is supposed to be historical, the writers managed to take a lot of liberties with history and mainly focused on the more juicy aspects of the court, creating a sort of 16th century soup opera. I personally really disdain soap operas, but as we all know there is a large portion of the movie going public that will disagree with me so I will try to keep my negativity to a minimum and stay objective with this preview.

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The film is based on the novel of the same name by Philippa Gregory. The story begins when the two sisters arrive at Henry's court after spending time in France. Mary, as a young naive and sexually inexperienced girl, is forced to become a mistress to Henry and gives birth to his son. However, Anne becomes jealous and then subsequently seduces and steals Henry away. Henry then divorces his current wife Katherine and marries Anne. Mary then falls in love with a servant, a commoner, but when her sister Anne discovers this, she banishes Mary from court and then to further spite Anne, adopts Mary's son with Henry. As Anne gains more power, her mental state deteriorates and her actions become more and more erratic, until finally she is imprisoned and executed for treason and incest. Talk about fact being stranger than fiction. Well, not in this case. Many historians have criticized Gregory for her twisting of the facts and her portrayal of both sisters. She paints Mary as a naive young girl who is forced and manipulated by her uncle, brother and sister to do their bidding, while Anne is painted as a conspiring bitch that does not care who she hurts in order to achieve power. In reality Mary was not very naive or sexually inexperienced; in fact she was expelled from the French court for her sexual indiscretions. Meanwhile, Anne was not the horrible person Gregory made her out to be. Anne was the only person to support Mary financially after Mary's second marriage was discovered, and the took care of Mary's bastard son, providing for his education and future. Furthermore, most historians will now agree that the charges against Anne were fabricated in order to give Henry grounds for annulment. Many consider Anne a feminist hero for holding out for marriage with the King instead of becoming a mistress. Well, I guess that was not juicy enough for Gregory, so she completely changed history to make the story more entertaining.

The director, Justin Chadwick, decided not to correct Gregory's historical indiscretions and decided to stick very closely to the book. He cast Scarlett Johansson as Mary and Natalie Portman as Anne. Chadwick had inherited a script that was written by a woman and very geared to a female audience. He had hoped that casting two of the most beautiful Hollywood actresses would attract a male audience, however, this lead to two unforeseen consequences. First, he received a lot of flack for casting two non Brits to star in a British movie, Johansson has never done a British accent and Portman did a very questionable job in V for Vendetta. Second is the fact that Portman is a much more dynamic actress than Johansson. Portman has been making movies since she was a little girl doing a variety of difficult roles, while Johansson has spent her entire career playing the hot love interest. Mary is the more difficult of the two characters because she is quiet and shy, so the actress that plays her must be able to convey her emotions very subtly. Johansson does not have enough talent or experience to accomplish this subtleness; Consequently, Mary will seem like a very shallow and boring character making Portman the star of this movie relegating Johansson to being "the other actress" in Portman's movie. In reality the casting should be reversed, giving Portman the more difficult part. Chadwick also did a very questionable job casting the males in this movie. He got Eric Bana to play Henry VII. Bana is a very talented actor; the only problem is that Henry was actually pretty unattractive and overweight, while Bana is a very good looking guy and in excellent shape. I guess they needed an attractive guy to be on screen with Johansson and Portman, keeping the female audience in their seats, and he will do a great job as usual. Thus, the worst of the casting has to be Eddie Redmayne as William Stafford. Stafford is Mary's second husband, a commoner. He is supposed to be the man Mary marries out of love and loses everything. In the book he is described as a man's man, someone who is strong both physically and mentally in contrast to the nobles he serves. Redmayne is none of those things; he actually has the physique of a twelve year old girl. This is an extreme departure from the text, making it very hard to explain why Mary gave up everything for him. I am very confused why they picked him, and why after reading the book Redmayne did not hit the gym and start chugging protein shakes.

The mistakes did not end with the casting. Chadwick also made several huge mistakes when filming. First of all, the plot is meant to be a look into the royal court and Chadwick decided to film it as thus. To accomplish this effect, he filmed from awkward angles and all the action takes place at the court, making the audience feel like they are like voyeurs looking in. However, because of this style, the plot becomes very confusing. Most of the major events that drive the plot are not shown but discussed or announced afterwards. Characters constantly walk in and out of the movie with very little explanation of who they are, where they went or what they are doing. Consequently, the movie becomes very confusing for someone who has not read the book and does not have an in depth knowledge of British royal history. Next, Chadwick cast all these good looking actors and actresses, yet he made all the major sex scenes very PG (translation - no nudity!). Yet, he took all the violent scenes and made them very gruesome and graphic which may alienate the large female fan base. If I was him, I would have highlighted a lot of the hedonistic aspects of court life and pushed the violence to background.

Earlier in the preview I promised to keep the negativity to a minimum, but I failed, so let me at least finish this preview with some positives. Despite the movie being very historically inaccurate in terms of events, it is very historically accurate in the way a royal court worked and the nobility interacted with each other. Furthermore, the entire filming was done on location at actual British castles and royal residences. The combination of an all-star cast, filming location and filming style will actually give you the feeling of being there in the 16th century.

In Conclusion: I really do not like these pseudo historical soap style dramas so I am obviously not going to go see it. However, even if you are a fan of these I still would not recommend the Other Boleyn Girl. I feel that the actors are very good, but miscast in certain places. Furthermore, the way the film is filmed is very confusing unless you know the story and characters really well. I recommend you save your hard earned money and rent the two part BBC mini series of the same name that goes much more in depth with the story and actually has British actors.

Similar Titles: Elizabeth, Henry VIII, Shakespeare in Love
February 29th, 2008 (wide)
June 10th, 2008 (DVD)

Columbia Pictures

Justin Chadwick

Eric Bana, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch

Total: 133 vote(s).

Drama, Romance, Special Interests

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content and some violent images.

115 min





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