Saturday, June 7, 2008

Film Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

"The Other Boleyn Girl" *** (out of ****)

Royalty behaving badly, that would have been a more appropriate title for this film.

Word on the street is don't watch "The Other Boleyn Girl" if you are looking for historical accuracy. This leads me to wonder, why are people watching movies to learn about history? I was always under the impression cinema is fictional and is suppose to entertain. If you are looking for facts, may I suggest something called a book! There are plenty of books dealing with King Henry VIII.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" is the story of how two sisters; the seductive Anne (Natalie Portman) and the more gentle Mary (Scarlett Johansson) both came into the King's favor.

Queen Katherine (Ana Torrent) has just had a miscarriage, it was to be a boy. The couple have one child, a daughter, but Henry (Eric Bana) wants a son. Some speculate Katerine is no longer able to conceive children. In a diabolical effort the girl's father, Sir. Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) along with his brother-in-law Thomas Howard (David Morrissey) have conspired to arrange to have the eldest daughter, Anne, become the King's mistress. Never in cinema has a father been so eager to have his daughter fool around!

If Anne does a good job and provide King Henry VIII with a son, the family will fall into the good graces of the King. But Anne is a bit too wild for the King's taste. He seems to prefer the more sensitive Mary. So daddy makes the switch.

Now the two girls will back stab each other, fighting not only for the King's attention but the approval of their father.

Lets call a spade a spade, "The Other Boleyn Girl" is a soap opera. If it weren't for the talent involved, this would have been a campy melodrama. But Portman and Johansson and Bana all play the material straight. They attempt to rise above the material and slightly succeed. Though Bana does come out looking the least impressive.

The film also has very good production and costume designs. Technically it is a good looking film. And this is why I ultimately have decided to recommend it.

As previously stated some have criticized the film for its lose historical facts. One of the critics for the New York Sun said the filmmakers should have taken a history class. I think the critic should have taken a film class. We are not reviewing history but a movie.

"The Other Boleyn Girl", like "Elizabeth:The Golden Age" or "Goya's Ghost" treats history minimally and focuses more on the characters. We don't get a sense of the times watching this film.

That is odd because the film was adapted from a novel by Peter Morgan, who wrote the 2006 film "The Queen", one of my favorite films of the year. One of the reasons I liked that film was much was because the film seemed to have first hand knowledge of all the events taking place. We could have been watching a documentary.

Justin Chadwick, a TV director makes his feature film debut and does, for the most part, a good job. He keeps things moving along nicely, though near the end of the film it does start to drone a bit.

While not a masterpiece "The Other Boleyn Girl" for its fine performances and good production design deserves to be seen.