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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Review: The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)


Director: Justin Chadwick
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana

Even an awful movie tends to have at least one thing in its favour. With that in mind, I’ll state that Kristen Scott-Thomas is pretty good in a small supporting role. However, I wouldn’t recommend it based solely on that. In fact, there are no circumstances in which I would recommend this train wreck of a movie – not if you’re a fan of any of the three principle actors, not if you’re a fan of costume dramas in general, and especially not if you’re a fan of your own will to live, which this film will quickly sap from you.

I won’t bother much with the plot of the film, because I assume that most people are familiar with the basics of the Anne Boleyn story. Besides which I have so many issues with this film that I don’t really want to waste time rehashing the story, which is so ineptly written but which perfectly complements the one-note characters it inflicts upon the world. As portrayed in this film, Henry VIII et al. don’t even seem like they belong in their setting – Gossip Girl, 1526 would have been a more appropriate title. The characters seem too modern in the ways that they relate to one another, which would be fine if the film allowed them any depth at all. As it is, the three main characters can be summed up thusly: Mary = good, Anne = bad, Henry = horny jackass.

The most frustrating thing about The Other Boleyn Girl is that there’s a compelling story buried beneath this one - I mean, Henry VIII’s relationship with and marriage to Anne Boleyn changed the course of British history, causing the split between England and the Catholic church amongst other things – but the film decides instead to treat the British monarchy like the world’s longest running soap opera and it just becomes ridiculous. Henry’s relationship with Mary also has the potential to be interesting, but the film explores it in the most shallow way. She’s married when they meet so he gives her husband and herself positions at court which will require the husband to be largely absent and give Henry easy access to Mary. She becomes his mistress, has his child, and then is abandoned so that he can take up with Anne. Mary is openly prostituted to Henry by her family so that they can gain his favour, and becomes his mistress not necessarily by consent, but simply after he says to her, “Tonight.” If Mary were shown to mind, in the least little bit, that she’s being treated as chattel , this might be a better movie, but instead she doesn’t really seem to give it more than a cursory thought. Her mother (Scott-Thomas) gets it and comments on it, but neither of the Boleyn daughters really seems to have much perspective on her position as it relates to the King.

Unless you’re in a particularly sadomasochistic mood, do not see this movie. For the sake of your own sanity, don’t see this movie.


Joseph said...

And, of course, it will be nominated for an academy award in costume design. :)

Norma Desmond said...

Dear God, I hope not. Of all the things that bugged me about this movie (and there were a lot), the thing that irked me the most was that Anne goes through the whole thing with a "B" necklace around her neck. I mean, seriously?

Rick Olson said...

So let me get this straight: you didn't like this movie, right?

Norma Desmond said...

Yeah, I probably should have been less vague about that :)