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"The Other Boleyn Girl" movie poster

The Other Boleyn Girl

Genre: Drama/Romance
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Justin Chadwick
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana
Released by: Sony Pictures

In Short: The oft-told tale of King Henry VIII and his infamous relationship with Anne Boleyn adds the twist of her sexy sister into the mix, with less than fascinating results.
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Sex and Intrigue in Merry Olde England
Off With Her Head!
by Jenny Peters

Remember the classic film “Anne of the Thousand Days,” made in 1969 and nominated for ten Academy Awards? That top-notch telling of the romance between English monarch King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn starred Richard Burton and Geneviève Bujold; now, 40 years later, Hollywood returns to that historical tale, with Eric Bana and Natalie Portman in those roles.

“The Other Boleyn Girl” is not likely to garner numerous Oscar nominations, however. Focusing on both Boleyn girls (Scarlett Johansson plays Mary, Anne’s younger sister), this costume drama, set in 16th-century England, is based on the best-selling novel by Philippa Gregory. Focusing on the volatile relationship of the sisters, their ambitious parents, and the overriding desire of King Henry VIII to have a male heir, the film looks gorgeous. Filled with beautiful people in amazing costumes and shot in authentic castles, director Justin Chadwick got that part right.

Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson in "The Other Boleyn Girl"
Natalie Portman and Eric Bana in "The Other Boleyn Girl"

It is in the pacing that the film falters. The story is filled with lust, intrigue and unbridled ambition as the two Boleyn girls vie for the king’s eye (and bed); yet despite all those elements, it never quite engages the viewer. In fact, by an hour into the slow, sordid tale of the manipulation of the king for the personal gain of the Boleyn family, one starts hoping that Anne’s beheading comes sooner rather than later.

That feeling comes partially from Natalie Portman’s performance, which is central to the story but not compelling enough to make her character believable—or sympathetic in any way. Anne’s nasty, backstabbing behavior toward her sister (and anyone else that gets in her way), coupled with Portman's odd accent and stilted delivery, leaves little to like in her characterization. By the time this Anne Boleyn actually does lose her head, it’s hard to have any feeling toward her beyond thinking she got exactly what she deserved.

PAK020508 (Updated: 02/28/08 AK)

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