The Other Boleyn Girl
Description: Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
Runtime: 115 mins.
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess
Review: As a standalone movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” is okay….not great, but okay. However, as someone who is a die-hard fan of Philippa Gregory’s novel, I wasn’t at all impressed with this film adaptation.
The problem with this movie is that the script sucks, pure and simple. Obviously, the basic plot is the same as the book: The young Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) is commissioned by her ambitious family to cast her husband aside and become the mistress of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) while her older sister, Anne (Natalie Portman), jealously looks on. Eventually Henry’s eyes drift over to Anne, who replaces Mary as the favorite and embarks on a dangerous plan to replace Queen Katherine (Ana Torrent) on the throne of England.
Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t capture the energy and passion of Gregory’s brilliant novel. The pacing is tediously slow, and so many details of the plot were changed for the film, for no apparent reason at all. The Boleyn girls grow up at court, so the way Mary and Henry initially meet was rewritten in the film. Mary had two children by Henry, but only the boy is shown in the movie. Lady Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas) was reinvented for the screen and is portrayed as a woman who actually gives a crap about her children, but in the book she supports the use of her daughters as pawns in the family’s quest for power. I didn’t understand what happened to Mary’s first husband in the movie…he just sort of wanders off-screen 15 minutes into the film and is never seen or heard from again. (In the book, he dies from the sweat, which is why Mary is later free to marry William Stafford.) What else? I was disappointed in the way the incest issue was handled in the film. I guess the producers assumed that it was too taboo of a topic for the movie, because they totally changed the way it was handled. Oh yes, and King Henry never raped Anne Boleyn in the novel, and he certainly didn’t tire of her before he married her! That was so ridiculous.
There are many more discrepancies between the book and the film that I don’t even have time to list, and they completely ruined what could have been an excellent film. Another thing that bothered me is the way the pacing constantly shifted. At times things moved very slowly, but then the plot jolted forward at lightning speed, especially toward the end of the film. Major historical events were glossed over and only mentioned in a sentence or two of dialogue, such as Katherine’s banishment and the establishment of the Church of England. If you blink while watching this movie, you’ll definitely miss something important.
This movie had all the makings of a hit. Visually, it’s absolutely stunning. I especially loved all the brilliant costumes. Also, the performances by the actors were phenomenal. I was particularly enchanted by Portman’s portrayal of Anne, which was completely on the mark. However, all of the actors were limited by a terrible script. It’s such a shame.
I am so incredibly bummed about how crappy this film turned out to be. Do yourself a favor and read the book BEFORE you see the movie so you know what you’re missing (that is, if you even want to bother with the movie at all).