The Other Boleyn Girl
Now Showing at: The Esquire Theatre, Rave Westchester, AMC Newport, Regal Deerfield Township, and the Showcase Cinemas in Springdale and Kenwood.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Once upon a time, Hollywood used to call historical films that were about people more than battles or other epic occurrences “costume dramas.” They were aided in the storytelling by star-studded casts, stirring music, and lavish sets and costumes, all bathed in vivid Color by Technicolor.
Times change, as they say, and the latest entry in this category is The Other Boleyn Girl, the story of how Anne and Mary Boleyn’s father basically pimped them out to King Henry VIII, who was in dire need of a son and heir. At the time, Henry was wed to Catherine of Aragon, who, after bearing a stillborn son, was unable to have more children. It’s your basic tale of greed, ambition, lust, ego and power…all good ingredients for an historical drama…but relayed in such lackluster fashion as to make the film’s two hours feel almost interminable.
Written by Oscar-nominee Peter Morgan, who penned The Queen, any chance of having his latest work become another royal sensation in cinemas was negated by almost everything else that went into the production. The biggest problem is Erica Bana, from The Hulk and Munich, as King Henry VIII. Instead of being a lusty, life-devouring monarch, this Henry is an introverted, almost unemotional lump. It’s hard to fathom that someone so bland might actually be a reigning monarch of the British Empire. Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn is passive, as the character is supposed to be, but her performance is low-key to the point of being totally forgettable. At least in the latter portion of the film, Natalie Portman as Anne has scenes that show some real spark and acting ability beyond what we’ve come to expect of her. Kristin Scott Thomas, as their mother, is ok in the role, but the performance is nothing special.
The photography, sets, costumes and color, are dark and murky. Some scenes even appear to be tinted blue. Many of the characters dress as if having their portraits pained to be on a deck of cards. The music, instead of sweeping, epic, or even romantic, is irritating. It seems to be there just for its own sake, instead of to add emotion to the story.
The direction is by Justin Chadwick, who until now has worked solely in television. Even if his style for The Other Boleyn Girl had worked on the small screen, it’s still not up to “Masterpiece Theatre” standards.
Yes, the days of screen kings like Richard Burton and Peter O’ Toole, stirring music by Miklos Rosza or Alfred Newman, and even glorious Color by Technicolor, are gone. But there are craftspeople in the industry capable of making this film so much better. Too bad they weren’t given a chance.
For a more entertaining, and cinematic, visit with King Henry VIII, rent Anne of a Thousand Days with Richard Burton and Genvieve Bujold; Charles Laughton’s Oscar-winning turn in 1933's The Private Life of Henry VIII; or the BBC production The Six Wives of Henry VIII with Keith Mitchell.