The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.

Release Date: February 29th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Justin Chadwick Actors: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ana Torrent, Eddie Redmayne, Juno Temple




espicable people doing contemptible things – as a basic premise – never really leads to solid entertainment. “The Other Boleyn Girl” is not without its highlights, but those moments are largely negligible and spread out amongst poorly-paced, prolonged bits of heavily censored romance. Natalie Portman delivers a worthwhile performance as the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, but the rest of the too-beautiful cast can’t quite fit authentically into their lavish period-piece costumes. Undoubtedly, after viewing this adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novel (full of factually dubious activities), audiences will be inspired to research what actually happened with these historical figures.

When the Queen of England, Katherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), is unable to produce a male heir for impatient King Henry Tudor (Eric Bana), he becomes besotted by Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman), a girl who is intentionally placed before him to allow her weak father Sir Thomas (Mark Rylance) and her conniving uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), to remain in good favor with royalty. During the King’s visit, Anne’s competitive personality leads to Henry getting injured – and then cared for by her sister, Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson). The greedy King soon falls for the dewy-eyed sibling, who is whisked back to the court for his private pleasure.

Not long after, Mary becomes pregnant, while Anne Boleyn is secretly married to nobleman Henry Percy. Anne is banished after the Duke of Norfolk discovers her spontaneous and unplanned union, but, within a mere two months, she’s brought back to keep the King occupied when Mary falls bedfast. Anne soon finds herself infatuated with potential power and control over the King, and manages to have Mary sent back to the countryside and Katherine of Aragon banished for false infidelities. Henry eventually breaks away from the Catholic Church when he arranges for an annulment with his wife to marry Anne instead. Despite her promises, Anne is also unable to produce a male heir, causing the superficial leader to regret his decisions over Katherine and his country – ultimately ending in Anne’s notoriously famous undoing.

“The Other Boleyn Girl” is not entirely a history lesson, but it’s about as much fun. The beginning plods along with relentless details on trivial things, as the love triangle that forms morphs into a most predictable affair. But the most unappealing factor of this film is its dislikable characters. Mary is initially at fault for dispensing misery to her sister and plotting her exilement. After this, she never really feels like a leading force of good – but, she’s still crafted to be the only character with which viewers can sympathize, even if just sporadically throughout her self-induced tragedies. When Anne grows jealous of her sister’s success with the King, she is immediately an antagonist, wheeling and dealing to increase her power and remove her competition; the King is portrayed as an uncontrollably lustful and self-absorbed despot who thinks of himself before his kingdom; and, presiding over all of these miserly personas is the Duke of Norfolk, who pulls the strings of his brother and plays with the lives and romances of Anne and Mary as if mere pawns in a chess game.

With the leads all dressed in luxuriant costumes (Portman manages to still look like Queen Amidala) and traded back and forth like cattle, “The Other Boleyn Girl” goes to great lengths to show off beautiful people frolicking about in medieval fetes. Outside of Portman, who does a decent job in a poorly penned role, the remaining cast feels horribly misplaced, like wolves in sheep’s clothing. By the conclusion, which perhaps unintentionally sets things up perfectly for the film “Elizabeth,” all anyone will want to do is sort out the real facts about the Tudors and clear away the heavy embellishments here that threaten to turn this historical vision into pure fantasy.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10