Pedantic historians will not like this film. Based on the novel of the same title by Phillipa Gregory, it tells the story of the infamous Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, and the lesser-known one of her sister, Mary. There is, however considerable use of dramatic license, and anyone who knows anything about the Tudor era may well dismiss this as a tarted up soap drama.
Most people, though, don’t have a Phd on Henry VIII, and that’s a good thing, because this is a very enjoyable movie. Any historically based film risks appearing dry and dusty, removed from modern life. This however, is lustful, luxurious, and dripping with scandal. The costumes and set are meticulously detailed, only to be expected from Academy Award winner Sandy Powell, and really bring the period to life. Anyone who has ever lived the Cyprus Soap Opera will identify with the claustrophobic atmosphere of court, where the sexual tension is thicker than Paris Hilton and betrayal runs in vicious circles around one and all.
Eric Bana does well to create a convincing character in his portrayal of Henry VIII; by the film’s end, although you know you should be thinking ‘what a git’, there’s still something undeniably charismatic about him (or that could just be me and my crush on him). Nathalie Portman shines in the best role I’ve seen her in yet – Anne Boleyn knocks Queen Amidala into a galaxy far away. It would be very easy to overact this part, and fall into one of two stereotypes, the witch or the victim. Like her co-stars, she does well to maintain the complexity of her role. Also, she dies well (at least with history films you can’t give the plot away.)Scarlett Johansson also puts in a solid performance as the quieter sister Mary. Together, the two female leads are, as Rolling Stone put it, a “combustible teaming”, and with Kristin Scott Thomas as their mother, they bring the film’s feminist issues hammering home without forcing them down the audience’s throat.
This isn’t a film which should be taken too seriously, though – it lacks depth. Just sit back, relax, and don’t get too historical about it. You should enjoy it.
The Other Boleyn Girl will be screened at Rialto Theatre on the 11th of September 2008, don’t miss it!