A Review of ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ (PG-13)


Just started watching “The Tudors.” I’m intrigued.

Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta), Scarlett Johansson (Scoop), Eric Bana (Munich), and writer Peter Morgan (The Queen)

“Families improve their standing through their daughters,” intimates Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) to his wife Lady Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas). Indeed. When the simpler, eager-to-please Mary Boleyn (Johansson) is offered up to King Henry VIII (Bana) in order to vault the Boleyn family up the ranks of the aristocracy, Henry quickly tires of her, despite her having given birth to his illegitimate son.

Enter Anne (Portman), the other Boleyn girl, fresh from a family-imposed exile in France, returning a more confident, vibrant, and notoriously hard-to-get young woman whose calculating disinterest bewitches the impetuous king. Moving heaven and earth (if not religions) in order to achieve his much sought-after divorce from the politically-arranged marriage to Spanish Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) so that he may replace her as queen with Anne, Henry risks losing the direction of his kingdom and the faith of his people - just so he can get him some.

“Will you accept the challenge?” Yes, that question was posited to the ambitious, duplicitous Anne Boleyn, but it might as well have been posed to the audience. “Girl” is an excellent period drama rife with conflict, politics, and strong dialogue (thank you, Peter Morgan). With sweeping presentation, Justin Chadwick directs a seamlessly believable cast through the maze of gender and cultural politics (”A man’s love is worthless…Love is nothing without power and position.”) from Morgan’s exquisitely political script with monstrous, inspired twists and turns.

Usually playing the vixen, Johansson takes a noble turn as the more demure Boleyn sister (or one of the “Boleyn whores” as the jilted Queen Catherine calls them). Eric Bana is tall, imposing, and widely frocked as savvy charmer King Henry VIII, whose focused intelligence belies a raging, almost juvenile impulsiveness. Chadwick also wrests a pitch perfect, conniving performance out of Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, described as “not a simple, uncomplicated girl.” Sporting an “Ugly Betty” style necklace and a head full of confident empowerment from her time away in France, Portman’s Anne is a talented schemer, dangling her “virginity” as tantalizingly as an Oscar to a movie studio during awards season. With Bana giving Henry just a rakish does of humanity, it’s clear that these two deserve each other; determined to get whatever they want no matter the cost, Anne and Henry are both a cold piece of work.

Even in our cynical times where divorce has eclipsed marriage, “The Other Boleyn Girl” is a fascinating examination of marriage - in that time and for all times. Then, marriage is never about love but always about power; now, you can’t quite say that the converse is entirely true (there’s a show called “The Millionaire Matchmaker” for goodness sake). How swiftly life for a mistress aspiring to be a queen could pivot on a coin flip’s chance of pregnancy: heads, it’s a boy - your family wins and you are queen; tails, it’s a girl - your family’s ruined and you’re beheaded for not providing the king an heir. Oops! Chadwick brilliantly conveys the joy of impending motherhood without needing a line of dialogue as well as the agony of despair of a woman falling out of the king’s favor.

“When was it that people stopped thinking of ambition as a sin and started thinking of it as a virtue?” Perhaps I’ve been watching too much MSNBC during our “historic” presidential primary season but the Machiavellian nature of “Girl” really struck a Clintonesque chord with me (nothing is sacred for these social climbers: “When you sleep with the king, it ceases to be a private matter,” chides chief instigator the Duke of Norfolk, demanding bedtime details from Mary). Jealousy, desire, paranoia, rivalry, revenge…Sounds like just another day on the campaign trail.

@@@@ REELS
An urban legend/instant classic.

Edwardo Jackson is the author of the novels EVER AFTER and NEVA HAFTA, (Villard/Random House), a writer for The 213 Magazine, and an LA-based screenwriter. Visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com where his new novel I DO? is available NOW.

Leave a Comment


April 10th, 2008 at 11:31 am teradise says:

I really want to see this!

April 11th, 2008 at 3:01 pm superjonesy1 says:

I have got to see this

April 14th, 2008 at 5:08 pm MarieMaye says:

I really liked this film and I’m not even a Scarlett fan.

April 15th, 2008 at 9:16 pm Ginger says:

This movie was REAL good. Ladies you’ll love it!