Quick review: The Other Boleyn Girl (2003)

I’ve just seen the 2003 television movie version of “The Other Boleyn Girl” on DVD and, while it’s better than last year’s theatrical movie version, it doesn’t measure up to Philippa Gregory’s entertaining novel.

In the BBC movie, Natascha McElhone plays Mary Boleyn, who was the mistress of England’s King Henry VIII before he got involved with her more famous sister, Anne. I thought McElhone looked too old for the part, and her performance seemed stilted to me. In the book, as I recall, Mary Boleyn is warm and likeable, but in the movie she’s bland, almost zombie-like.

On the other hand, Jodhi May is fantastic as Anne Boleyn, very natural and believable — by far the best, most human portrayal of Anne I’ve ever seen.

I found the movie a little pedestrian and also a little odd. It looks like a low-budget documentary, and the sisters speak directly to the camera as if they’re participating in a TV reality show. The actresses pull this off well, but it’s unnecessarily anachronistic.

There are few actors and no big scenes of feasts, jousts, or the like. The royal court seems curiously quiet and empty. Even after Anne becomes queen, she’s able to run around the palace without attendants. The costumes aren’t particularly impressive, and there isn’t much music, so if you love big historical productions, you’ll be disappointed by this.

Overall: Watch it for Jodhi May’s performance, but for a better version of this story, read the book.

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