Thursday, September 11, 2008

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL: Rich, Powerful Drama

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (historical drama)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas and David Morrissey

Director: Justin Chadwick

Time: 115 mins

Rating: * * *
(out of 4)

Johansson and Portman

The 'Other Boleyn Girl' refers to Mary Boleyn, sister of the
infamous Anne, second wife of the adulterous King Henry VIII who was Queen of England for 1,000 days. A 1969 movie, 'Anne Of The Thousand Days', starring Genevieve Bujold and Richard Burton, dealt with Anne Boleyn's rise and fall in English court.

This BBC production is directed by Justin Chadwick, whose previous credits include
helming the critically acclaimed 'Bleak House' for the BBC. Gregory’s novel was made into a British television movie of the same title in 2003. We can also regard this movie as the first part of an unofficial 'trilogy' that includes 'Elizabeth' and 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'.

Adapted from the 2002 novel by Philippa Gregory, the movie concentrates on the relationship between the two Boleyn sisters, Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson), rather than the complicated court intrigues and historical dramas that King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) was involved in.
The sisters' vile and ambitious uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), uses the girls as bait to lure the King to his side.

Noting that Henry VIII’s current
wife, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), has failed to produce a male heir, Norfolk and the girls' father, Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance), invites the king for a hunting visit and orders Anne to 'win over' the monarch and become his mistress. The plan goes awry and Henry falls for Mary instead. Norfolk quickly switches to Plan B, which has Mary taking over Anne’s place, even though Mary is already married. Anne, however, gets her chance with the King when she is summoned to amuse him when Mary gets pregnant.

Although the three lead stars are not British, they acquit themselves creditably, with Portman and Johansson providing emotional fireworks as sisters fighting each other for the King's attention, and Bana as the randy royal who lets his lust, rather than his head, rule over him - and England. Johansson's tender and loving ways contrasts starkly with Anne's cold and calculating seduction, a style she learns from her stint in Paris.

Others in the cast are also commendable. Kristin Scott Thomas, as Elizabeth, the girl's mother, provides the voice of reason and the view of a suffering mother caught in the web of her power-hungry brother and equally greedy husband. Technically, we have no complaints about the film. The costumes are rich and the powerful music score by Paul Cantelon helps to sustain the movie's flow.

More than just a slice of British royal history, it is also an interesting and engaging period drama.


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