, 115 min, 2008
Director: Justin Chadwick
Writers: Peter Morgan (screenplay), Philippa Gregory (novel)
Stars: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana
The Other Boleyn Girl merely comes disguised as a serious historical drama. In fact, it’s a dark, sudsy, sumptuously made and morally vaccuous film with all the depth of a daytime soap opera – and as such, it’s quite fun.
The Boleyn family was, I guess, upper-middle-class in those grand days of all the Henry’s who became King. Their future was riding on the successful nuptials of their daughters, or at least an accepted mistress-King relationship. Natalie Portman is Anne Boleyn, the notorious “Anne of the Thousand Days” who, along with fair, doe-eyed sister Mary (Scarlett Johannsson), set about to “occupy” King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) upon his visit to their neck of the woods.
They both manage to seduce the wayward King, though he can’t seem to be bothered with which one he “loves” – he goes back and forth like a pendulum in full-swing. Mary was the one who so famously bore him a bastard son, a would-be heir, and Anne was the one who bore him first a daughter (a rather famous one, apparently) and who eventually lost her head (figuratively and literally-speaking). Caught in the middle of the machinations of the Boleyns’ nefarious uncle were their mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and brother (Jim Sturgess of 21 and Across the Universe).
Justin Chadwick is a British TV vet (The Bleak House) who has here rendered a great-looking melodrama full of palace intrigue, incestuous betrayal, and bodice-ripping (well, PG-13-rated bodice-ripping) lust.
The screenplay by Peter Morgan (The Queen) is based on the novel by Philippa Gregory and is ostensibly a would-be classy, suds-packed period epic; think Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) before Elizabeth was born. Like that film, this one is intriguing, even if it can’t be taken too seriously, and fans of this type of thing will almost certainly enjoy it.