The umpteenth film incarnation of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, The Other Boleyn Girl races through the events at the Tudor court like a triple-time miniseries. Not that the pace is breathless or exciting; bits of exposition are dropped in one-minute-long scene after another, and little of it sticks (the English Reformation is dispensed with in four or five lines of dialogue). For Boleyn is a star vehicle, its blinkered focus on the aristo sibling rivalry, betrayal, and reconciliation of manipulative Anne (jut-jawed, over-enunciating Natalie Portman) and timid Mary (Scarlett Johansson). Over the objections of their wary mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), first Anne and then the less complicated Mary are offered as candidates for Henry’s boudoir when his Spanish queen (an intimidating Ana Torrent) fails to produce a son. Eric Bana is not cast to his strengths as the brooding, petulant king in heat, even if he continues the new trend of noncorpulent, studly Henrys; he’s just a plot device with a crown. The schematic realpolitik of the monarch’s dealings with his consorts often reaches risible levels; when Henry, having extracted a “reason to hope” from cocktease Anne, turns his back on mistress Mary and their newborn lovechild, he literally turns his back on them minutes after the birth, leaving Johansson looking like a crestfallen 16th-century Jan Brady. Adapting a bestseller, writer Peter Morgan, having celebrated a figurehead in The Queen and crappily semi-humanized Idi Amin, now makes the Boleyn affair a tragedy of overreaching girl power. It’s got all the required upholstery, meticulous costumes, and pretty castles, but of the stars, only Johansson’s innocence occasionally convinces when director Justin Chadwick goes in for the tempestuous close-ups. The movie’s last-ditch attempt at valorizing family loyalty after a couple hours of miscarriages, queasily averted incest, and beheadings is trumped by an epiphanic final shot of toddler and future queen Elizabeth. Afflicted with Princess Padme syndrome, Portman has been trapped once again playing a doomed wife in a shitty prequel.
- Justin Chadwick
- Peter Morgan
- Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Jim Sturgess, Ana Torrent, Mark Rylance
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