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The Other Boleyn Girl: PG-13 Porn for the Masses

The Other Boleyn Girl
Directed by Justin Chadwick
Written by Peter Morgan from the novel by Philippa Gregory
Sony, 2008

Society apparently can’t get enough of the royal Tudor family.  The story of King Henry VIII and his search for a male heir became a messy business of contested divorce, a change of churches, accusations of incest, and ultimately executions.  The sordid affair would eventually lead to future Queen Elizabeth’s reign.  

Showtime has a critically-acclaimed series on King Henry, The Tudors.  It does not shy away from making the whole thing as salacious as possible.  Watching the PG-13 The Other Boleyn Girl is like watching the exact opposite of a movie that has been edited for television.

The eventually more famous Boleyn girl, Anne (Natalie Portman) lives in her younger sister Mary’s (Scarlett Johansson) shadow, as their father Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mary Rylance) tries to make a name and fortune for his family by marrying his daughters to wealthy men, Mary’s golden hair being preferred.  Eventually, even their brother George (Across the Universe’s Jim Sturgess) will be caught up in the marriage-for-fortune business.

Their uncle, The Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), is friends with King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) and knows that his failure to create a male heir with wife Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) has made their marriage icy, and sees an opportunity for he and his brother.  What if they offer Anne to him, so he can “take comfort” in a mistress and maybe breed with her?  This is exactly what is set up, but the bold Anne screws up and suddenly her married sister Mary wins the King’s affections.  With royal money involved, her marriage is pretty much over and she starts trying to mate with Henry.  Anne begins to resent her sister.

Those pregnant girls, though, they ain’t no fun.  And with the desperation of Sir Thomas and his brother the Duke, they try to reintroduce Anne to Henry while Mary carries a potential male heir.  Thomas’ wife Lady Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas) has begun to resent him for the whoring of the family.  Anne, trying to make her own mark, gambles that Henry will divorce his wife Catherine, her marriage to him will be legit, and won’t give him the goods until it happens.  This forces a potential showdown with the Catholic Church and ties with Rome.  As much has been done to Mary, she sticks with Anne through the worst of times.

The good: Natalie Portman is a sexy seductress, which quite honestly I thought was going to be impossible for her.  Portman, the precociously beautiful child star-turned-serious actress, I’ve felt has always struggled to turn in a great performance, even her nominated turn in Closer and the fanboy favorite V for Vendetta.

The not-so-good: The film, like I said, plays pretty tame compared to The Tudors.  Even if that’s not a big consideration for some, there’s a feel to this that’s missing.  The story is one of those that deserves a wicked persepective, but it looks processed for Lifetime.  It certainly doesn’t have the wit of Peter Morgan’s last screenplay, The Queen (this guy’s obsessed with royal families).  I guess the movie isn’t really bad, per se, it just isn’t going to give you anything new or exciting, and that’s what we go to the movies for.

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