Friday, April 18, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

On the surface The Other Boleyn Girl seem like your typical love triangle – two sisters battling for the heart of one man. And had the film been titled something more common as “The Other Woman”, and set in a period more contemporary, it could make some money here in the Philippines. But being a historical drama of Henry VIII’s England, I seriously doubt it’ll make decent money.

Natalie Portman plays the ill fated Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of King Henry VIII who in turn is played by Eric Bana. The other Boleyn girl, Mary, is played by Scarlett Johansson.

I don’t know enough of the historical accounts pertaining to the triangle to make a critique of the film’s accuracy. Safe to say, that based on many Hollywood films inspired from historical figures and events, I’d read first before accepting any of it as fact.

What is certain is that Henry’s original wife Catherine had not given him a son and obsessions of that day especially for kings was producing an heir – a male heir. From the royal problem comes a plot, if you will, of winning the king’s bed, gain wealth and favor, maybe even produce a son.

On that description alone I guess you can say this film is a social-climbing chess game. Unfortunately it is disappointing because the story was confined only to the Boleyn family.

King Henry’s choices were of historical significance after all and I would have wanted that it be shown in a much clearer light than just mentioning in passing. Because of the Boleyn girls, Henry challenged the all powerful Catholic Church essentially giving people every where the choice of following their own conscience. No scene was made to that effect except a line that to ‘break from Rome would isolate England politically’.

Furthermore, the Boleyn family were not the only contenders for the kings bed. The other challengers were mentioned by name but unless you are British such names will have no impact. If such scenes were present it could have given more political intrigue and suspense.

While I appreciate the logic that the film might be meant to focus only on the Boleyn sisters, there wasn’t enough sisterly relationship scene for me to be affected on their estrangement. Acting wise, however, the sisters were great. They didn’t mesh perhaps in large part because of a substandard script but they were great individually. Natalie Portman was particularly scary as the scheming Anne Boleyn and Scarlett was ok as a low key Mary Boleyn.

Eric Bana did well enough as Henry VIII though his role could use some more spicing up to make himself more kingly. Apart from the garment and people bowing down he could be just any other man having trouble with two pretty women. There was one element that I intrigued me and I have seen before on movies with kings and royalty - this film had the same pitiful element of kings, queens, powerful people being isolated. Henry VIII is as much a toy as he is god on earth.

The Other Boleyn Girl can be dragging for those who are not verse with England or Europe of those days. Though I don’t consider it perfect or fantastic, I liked it because it gives me an actual picture (which has to be verified ofcourse) of people I have studied and read about. Movies certainly beat reading dates and names ofcourse.

But still reading is best . . . .

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