Filed under: Tudor Movies
It’s a bodice ripping catfight between Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman as they compete for the affections of Eric Bana’sHenry VIII in an adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s hugely popular novel The Other Boleyn GirlThe Boleyn girl who won the king’s heart was Anne, played by Natalie Portman. She went on to bare him a future queen in Elizabeth I before he lopped off her head for not giving him a son. What many might not know is that he fell for her sweet natured younger sister Mary, Scarlett Johansson, before scheming Anne stuck her claws into him.These are the facts according to director Justin Chadwick (Bleak House), scriptwriter Peter (The Queen) Morgan and Philippa Gregory of course. How much historical truth there is in this version is for the likes of David Starkey, not this mere reviewer.
The facts I can be certain of are it’s a film as sumptuous to look at as we have come to expect from such period dramas and as melodramatic as recent BBC TV series The Tudors, without as much bonking. Shame.
Johansson’s Mary is the innocent who’s pimped out to the king by the patriarchs of her family – her father Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and her uncle The Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) – in order to better their social standing. When she falls out of favour, Anne is enlisted to fill the hole in his bed.
Where Mary was reluctant to be his mistress Anne has her eye on the throne and schemes her way into his affections until she gets it. Lady Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas) as the girls’ mother washes her hands of the whole affair.
Henry VIII has such a reputation for womanising it’s easy to forget that he ruled for 62 years and separated England from the Catholic Church.
But he only did that so he could divorce his first wife Catharine of Aragon and marry Anne. Eric Bana as Henry does an admirable job of playing a king controlled by his cock and Portman plays him, and it, like a fiddle. There really must be more to this skirt-chasing six-pack than Chadwick and Morgan would have us believe.
Enjoyable as it is The Other Boleyn Girl is over run with stock characters. Bana is a stock hunk, Portman a stock bitch and Johansson a stock angel. There has to be more to a story where everybody already knows the ending.
The Other Boleyn Girl opens in the UK on 7 March 2008
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