- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
or those that aren’t completely sick and tired of trashy melodramas centered on Queen Elizabeth (I and II), director Justin Chadwick takes a slightly different approach with “The Other Boleyn Girl”: a movie that focuses not on the infamous rulers, but rather the series of nefarious events leading up to the first Elizabeth’s birth. Though it could have just as easily been titled “Elizabeth: The Prequel,” Chadwick’s film is seriously lacking a protagonist even remotely as passionate or interesting. Instead, he pulls together a group of ignorant and traitorous characters that the audience simply can’t identify with, ultimately resulting in one of the most pointless movie experiences since last year’s hugely overrated “Into the Wild.”
Based on the novel by Philippa Gregory, the historically inaccurate tale follows the two Boleyn sisters – Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne (Natalie Portman) – as they vie for the love of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana). After Henry’s current wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), fails in delivering a male heir to the throne, he begins looking for a mistress to bear him a son. Desperate to earn the respect and gratitude of the king, Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) offers up his eldest daughter Anne as a potential candidate, but when Henry visits their estate and falls for the recently wedded Mary instead, she’s quickly whisked away to court to serve her country.
Within weeks, Mary becomes pregnant, but when the Boleyns’ uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), worries that the king will lose interest during her time of rest, he enlists the help of Anne to keep him entertained. Unbeknownst to her family, Anne still holds a grudge against her sister’s betrayal, and when she’s given a second chance at her own illustrious love affair with Henry, she sets into motion a ruthless rivalry that threatens to change the face of England forever.
Though he received a fair amount of critical attention for his work on the Stephen Fears-directed “The Queen,” writer Peter Morgan still hasn’t risen above the sort of historical fodder that you’d expect to find on “Masterpiece Theater.” “The Other Boleyn Girl” is no different, and with his third foray into British royal history (and his second about King Henry VIII), Morgan has learned very little about what makes a story appealing. His scripts are, quite frankly, incredibly dull, and until he learns to branch out from such stiff material, he'll never appeal to a broader audience.
Of course, Morgan isn’t completely to blame for his latest endeavor. Gregory’s story – which is a chore to sit through the more ridiculous it becomes – is like a present day sex scandal set in 16th Century England. The final act is so bad, in fact, that you’ll likely forget Scarlett Johansson can’t act. Thankfully, it’s Natalie Portman who’s given the more important (and juicier) role, and though we’ve seen her play a conniving bitch before (see: “Closer”), it’s always a pleasant break from her usual girl-next-door shtick. Be careful, though: “The Other Boleyn Girl” may look like the perfect date movie due to the corset-wearing duo of Johansson and Portman, but it’s really just a “Clockwork Orange”-like torture trap in disguise.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Unless you’re a history nut, you won’t find anything of interest on the single-disc release of “The Other Boleyn Girl.” Director Justin Chadwick’s audio commentary is more boring than the film itself, while the included deleted/extended scenes have been rightfully cut. Of course, if you do get your kicks watching The History Channel, you’ll likely enjoy the remaining extras, including character profiles (“Members of the Court”), a historical featurette on women in the 16th century (“To Be a Lady”), and a short discussion on adapting the best-selling novel for the big screen. Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is a picture-in-graphics track (“Inside the Court”) that offers in-depth trivia about the characters and events that inhabited the world of Henry VIII.