Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Year: 2008
Director: Justin Chadwick
Cast: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Mark Rylance, Jim Sturgess

I would have reviewed this film a lot sooner if I didn't fall sick last week. Anyways, now that I've watched this movie, the review may commence.

The Other Boleyn Girl is a film centering on the lives of two sisters, Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) during the time of King Henry VIII's (Eric Bana) rule. The King is distraught that his queen is unable to give him a male heir. Thus the scheming Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) goes to his brother in-law Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) to ask for one of his daughters to become a mistress for the King.

Thomas, who wants nothing more than favors from the King for such a task, sends Anne despite objections from his wife Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas). Anne gladly takes on the job of pleasing the King, but she fails. Instead it is Mary who catches the King's eye eventually. King Henry sends for Mary to live in his court, despite the fact that she's married to someone else, and the Queen is still living in the palace. Mary's uncle and father push for her to give the King what he wants, and she relents. Eventually she becomes pregnant, but is confined to her bed for a long period. In an effort to ensure the King does not stray from her, the Duke of Norfolk and Thomas sends Anne, who has been sent to France for education on etiquette, to keep the King company and see to it that Mary stays in the King's thoughts.

However, Anne takes the opportunity to reach far beyond her grasp, as she feels betrayed by Mary for losing the King's interest before. Anne not only grabs the King's attention, but persuades him to make her Queen. This sets off a chain of events that tears the Boleyn family and the country apart.....

Firstly, I don't really like period English dramas. It's just not my kind of film. But this one has Portman and Johansson in it, two very promising actresses indeed. And to their credit, they make it worthwhile to a certain extent. Though quite honestly, I found the way things were back in the day to be truly fascinating. In this period, it's all right for the King to have a mistress, a married woman at that, and all under the Queen's nose. And even more interesting is the scheming amongst noble families to gain good standing. They even shamelessly plot and question every move the Boleyn sisters make. There's a scene where after Mary sleeps with the King, her father and uncle ask her if she had done it with him, and the number of times as well.

Performance wise, Portman is good but inconsistent here. The emotional scenes are well done, but when Portman tries to court the King to take interest in her, she tries too hard, as if this were a stage play. It's disappointing coming from someone I expect so much more from. Johansson on the other hand, gets the tough task of playing the boring goody two shoes Mary, but successfully gets the audience to root for her when it matters. Bana is reduced to playing an underappreciated supporting character, but is quite convincing in every scene he's in. It's just unfortunate that this story isn't about him.

Critics say that this film is historically inaccurate, but then again nobody really goes to the movies to learn history. Verdict: not bad for an English film starring three actors who aren't English. (3/5)

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