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  The Other Boleyn Girl

Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Tiffany Freisberg

Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Produced by: Alison Owen
Written by: Peter Morgan

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


     Underneath the perfect-looking surface of Justin Chadwick’s The Other Boleyn Girl lies a story far more interesting than the one that Chadwick chooses to tell. Yes, the movie’s title refers to the somewhat straightforward, infamous tale of Anne Boleyn (here played by Natalie Portman), one of the many wives of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana). Anne, of course, was beheaded for an illicit relation that she allegedly had with her brother (Jim Sturgess), supposedly in order to conceive the son that Henry so desperately wanted to pass his throne on to. But instead of focusing on what we all already know, screenwriter Peter Morgan (adapting from a Philipa Gregory novel) wisely decidea to explore a seldom-told part of Boleyn’s life. This involves the competition that she and her sister, Mary (Scarlett Johansson), had in winning Henry over. Prompted by their father and uncle to conceive the King’s child in order to secure a prominent place in society, Anne and Mary took common sibling rivalry to the next level to say the least.

     What’s fascinating about The Other Boleyn Girl’s crafty premise is that it contains brilliant, involving notes of eroticism. Using well-known historical figures, Chadwick could’ve easily manipulated Morgan’s screenplay to form an intimate, steamy, and thoughtful reflection on sexuality. Unfortunately, the young director seems so caught up in portraying history accurately that he ignores the fact that his story presents this wonderful opportunity. Sure, he can be credited for exploring Anne and Mary’s attempt to carry out family expectations and the ensuing devious exploration of the darkness of human relationships. However, Chadwick never openly recognizes the ornate eroticism found in the screenplay; he side-skirts it for the sake of painting a prettier picture. The result is a perfectly nice little creation, but not one that provokes much thought about history (or filmmaking, for that matter). What’s entirely ironic about the end-product is that, according to experts, it’s full of factual inaccuracies. Had Chadwick told a work of pure fiction featuring the same characters, The Other Boleyn Girl wouldn’t have been any more scrutinized for its historical embellishments.

     Despite its dismayingly underdeveloped potential, The Other Boleyn Girl still breathes some life. This is mainly due to the fantastic performances of its always-reliable stars, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Within Chadwick’s restrained style, the actresses are able to erk out every inch of sexuality that their director allowed them to, tapping into the material’s true themes far more than actresses of a lesser caliber could have. In fact, Portman and Johansson even gain the emotional investment of viewers, a fine accomplishment given the utter sterility of the picture. By the time Anne’s head finds itself in the line of a history-making blade, all audience members will be compelled by the material, no matter what their reaction to the rest of the picture. In this very achievement, The Other Boleyn Girl proves itself to be worth something.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.3.2008

Screened on: 3.2.2008 at the UltraStar Flower Hill 4 in Del Mar, CA.


The Other Boleyn Girl is rated PG-13 and runs 115 minutes.

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