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The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) review

Posted : 6 years, 1 month ago on 30 December 2012 09:06

A kind of all in the dysfunctional family royal romp with incestuous tendencies, The Other Boleyn Girl revisits if not reinvents old English history as essentially crafted in the bedroom as opposed to the Tudor period boardroom. That`s more than a little like weirdly theorizing that Bill Clinton`s or John McCain`s alleged extra-marital indiscretions have more to do with the sway of current events than anything else. Which makes for weirdly kinky historical analysis, but pretty steamy pre-tabloid melodrama.

British director Justin Chadwick, who likely cut his carnal teeth on the small screen with Bleak House, assembles a richly textured, dramatically disciplined erotically laced and emotionally taut creation with The Other Boleyn Girl. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman are the Boyeln sisters, Mary and Anne respectively. Following an idyllic provincial childhood at the estate of their parents, aristocrat Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and his wife, Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas), the sisters find themselves being groomed for fame and fortune to benefit the standing of their parents at the royal court of Henry VIII (Eric Bana).

At a time when women, whatever their social position, were perceived primarily as cattle to be traded for the political plots and personal pleasures of men, the sisters receive a rude awakening as their father with apparent early stage-parent proclivities, bids to negotiate their young flesh in a kind of sex slave trafficking, as female bewitching bait, with the very married king in frantic need of a male heir. Thoughtlessly casting his currently barren, older wife Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) aside for these two hotties-in-waiting as if selecting from a menu`s column A or B, the indecisive and rather horny Henry first settles on Mary and then Anne - after Mary becomes a mom and therefore no longer sexually craved as an object of desire by the lusty ruler. In other words, just that other Boleyn girl in this tragic menage a trois royale.

Meanwhile, a quite conniving and already secretly married Anne, plays seductive hard-to-get in the extreme with the playboy monarch, until he will agree to violate Catholic Church doctrine by divorcing his wife, and then marrying her. Seemingly objecting to his perceived wimp status in the arenas of both sex and politics, Henry does a premarital date rape on Anne - possible prophetic domestic violence precursor to her later beheading - in addition to breaking with the Church to enable his divorce and new marriage, all to, well, show who`s boss.

All the sordid court intrigue, nasty sexual skirmishes, repressed passions and imploding desires make The Other Boleyn Girl an absorbing and dazzling surface spectacle. And with a deliciously devious undercurrent of less admirable human instincts dressed up in a thin veneer of pomp and finery, concealing extremely bad behavior.

What the film omits entirely, in its obsessive focus on sex as a driving force in history, is Henry`s break with the stranglehold of the Catholic Church and declaration of the independent Church of England, as a necessary component to all the unimpeded nation building and pursuit of England`s colonial empire globally, with the divorce issue as pretext. But such technical historical details don`t quite make for this sort of elegant and treacherous bodice-ripper cinema. All of which leads up to that accidental prequel, namely Henry`s and the executed Anne`s offspring Elizabeth, who grows up to be by chance the future Cate Blanchett, in that queen`s own costume drama sequel bearing her name.

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An average movie

Posted : 7 years, 9 months ago on 3 May 2011 08:10

Even though I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie, I still wanted to check it out though. Honestly, there was loads of good stuff in this movie. First of all, it looked gorgeous. Then, the cast was very interesting as well(Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juno Temple, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Andrew Garfield...) and even though I had some doubts about Portman and Johansson portraying sisters, they actually pulled it off quite well. However, the damned thing was far from being flawless, I’m afraid. Indeed, they tried to make it look like a drama but the end-result was often more like a soap opera, a gorgeous soap opera maybe but still a soap opera. Also, I wasn't really convinced by the portrayal of the king. I don't think it was really Eric Bana's fault but I think this character was just badly written. For example, what were his motivations? It was not clear whatsoever and he seemed take some actions only to allow the plot to move along. Furthermore, during the second half, the only thing he did was basically sitting in a corner and looking pissed off. To conclude, it was definitely not a masterpiece but I think it was a very well made costume drama and I think it is worth a look, especially if you like the genre.

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The Other Boleyn Girl

Posted : 8 years, 5 months ago on 6 September 2010 01:29

The very definition of guilty pleasure (assuming you like this sort of thing, of course). It's predictable, super melodramatic and at times way too fast-paced, but it's VERY unlikely to bore you. In fact, the fast pace is probably the reason for that, so maybe it makes more sense to commend the filmmakers for making The Other Boleyn Girl a swift-moving film, as it makes it feel involving, even if it leaves you feeling like there's a few too many plot holes.

As the obvious central figure of the story, Natalie Portman deserves particular recognition here. Her Anne starts out as a vulnerably jealous older sister. Her pain is more than perceptible to the audience. We then get an interlude in which she does not appear on-screen for a certain amount of time (during Anne's exile to France), and upon her return, Portman shocks us with the transformation she's given to her character, who has become a delicious villainess, who lays out her plans with a cunning smile and gives us no reason to doubt that she'll accomplish what she's setting out to do. As if that weren't enough, during the climax Portman returns to that former vulnerability that characterized Anne in the first act, and she achieves this seamlessly. It is because of this fascinating full-circle transformation that Portman's work trumps that of Eric Bana, Scarlett Johansson and the supporting members of the cast, even though they hold their own, for the most part.

It feels weird to speak well of this film, since I'm not the soap opera type at all (and it does often feel like one), but this one definitely had me from start to finish. If you enjoy dramatic period pieces that focus less on the politics and more on the intimate dynamics of the characters that inhabit stories like this one, this is your movie.

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The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) review

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 27 March 2010 11:17

Risk nothing and you gain nothing.

Apparently the makers of this film risked something when they cast two American actresses - albeit talented - into the roles of two famous British figures in history: Mary and Anne Boleyn. The latter is known for being the ill-fated second wife of King Henry VIII (Bana), while the former, unlike her sister, is hardly mentioned in history books (well, those which I have read, anyway). The film starts off with Sir Thomas Boleyn (Rylance) talking to his wife, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Scott Thomas) about the marriage offer of William Carey (Cumberbatch) to their eldest daughter, Anne (Portman). Instead of giving them Anne, he offered his younger daughter, Mary (Johansson) instead. Flash forward to many years later, Mary is getting ready to be married while Anne and their brother, George (Sturgess) happily and fondly dote over her. Soon after the wedding, Anne and Mary's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (Morrissey), arrives and tells Anne that she can provide power and stature to their family by becoming the mistress of the King. Anne reluctantly agrees, and when the King arrives, she does all she can to get his affections. However, after a riding accident, King Henry comes face to face with Mary, and in the span of a half hour, he becomes completely besotted with the younger Boleyn girl. Instead of having Anne as his mistress, he takes Mary, despite her being married to William Carey. In a jealous fit, Anne swiftly marries Henry Percy (Coleman), but when her father and uncle find out about it through mary, they force her to divorce her husband and send her to France. Anne swears to get even with her sister, and her time comes when she returns from France, having received what her mother deems as a proper education for women. She quickly ignites the attraction and affection of the King, who unashamedly pursues her, despite the fact that Mary is pregnant with his child. Anne manipulates the events to her end, but things don't go as she planned. The ending... well, you'll have to watch the film to find out.
I loved the scenery and the costumes, and the acting chops of the cast was nothing short of perfection. Although I did have an issue with the accents Portman and Johansson presented, they gave a stunning and definitely believable performance. Bana shed off his gentlemanly appearance and became a raging bull when it came to the politics of the bedroom. A truly fantastic period piece.

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The Whole Thing

Posted : 10 years, 6 months ago on 27 July 2008 11:54

This was a good, complete movie. It had drama, and intrigue, and gorgeous sets and costumes, well acted and well directed. No it's not one of the 100 best films ever made, but it might make my top 10 for the year. We all know it's based on the historical dramatic book of the same name, and thereby know that it's not completely accurate. Most important of these inaccuracies is that Mary's son is not fathered by Henry. But the dramatic effect, especially for those who don't know that much about the King's mania for a male heir, is powerful and does illustrate Henry's fickleness. Kirstin Scott Thomas was especially great in her small but powerful role and the scene of the sisters at Anne's beheading really was riveting. Likable characters in sincere situations, excellent cinematography and good directing make this a movie I recommend.

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