The movie version of “The Other Boleyn Girl” is now available on DVD, and I’ve just seen it. It stars Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, second wife of England’s King Henry VIII; Scarlett Johansson as Anne’s sister Mary, who was Henry’s mistress before he became involved with Anne; and Eric Bana as King Henry himself.
The movie is based on a novel by Philippa Gregory. I found the book very entertaining, and I’m interested in the Tudor era, so I hoped this would be an enjoyable movie. And it is an OK costume drama, but nothing more than that, in my opinion.
The best thing about the movie is Natalie Portman’s performance as the calculating Anne. She does a good job of conveying Anne’s intelligence, cunning, and frustration. Unlike the book, which is told from Mary’s point of view, the movie focuses on Anne, but Scarlett Johansson does what she can with her underwritten part as the downtrodden Mary.
Kristin Scott Thomas is likeable as the Boleyn girls’ mother (I don’t recall her being so protective of her daughters in the book), and Ana Torrent is excellent as the strong-willed Katherine of Aragon. Eric Bana isn’t loud or florid enough to fit my image of Henry VIII, but I forgive him for that because he is so good looking.
If you know a lot about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, you may be disappointed (as I was) by the movie’s omissions and telescoping of events. Anne’s formative years in France are reduced to a few months that somehow transform her into a super-seductress. It’s entirely Anne’s idea for Henry to divorce Katherine and split from the Roman Catholic church — after all, she says, it’s “worth it.” (I’ll bet that’s one theological argument the Pope never considered!)
The silliest part of the movie, in my view, is at the end. After Anne meets her fate, her sister marches through the royal court, seizes an unidentified child who is presumably the king’s daughter Elizabeth, and then appears to leave the court with the child in her arms, completely unchallenged. The movie’s final scene suggests that Mary gave Elizabeth an idyllic upbringing in the countryside. That would have been nice for Elizabeth, but of course it didn’t really happen that way.
Overall, not a terrible movie, but not a great one, either. Don’t expect much.
You can read other reviews of this movie at RottenTomatoes.com.