Herald rating: * *
If you're imagining that this adaptation of Philippa Gregory's novel
The Other Boleyn Girl
will be an intriguing and detailed account of how King Henry VIII's infatuation with the Boleyn sisters (among other things) led England into the English Reformation in the early 17th century, then you will be sorely disappointed.
You will also be disappointed if you think you're in for a bodice-ripping, fun, historical romp featuring some of the hottest talent around today, because somehow director Justin Chadwick has managed to make a film that is stuck floating between a historical drama and a light-hearted, entertaining film.
The Other Boleyn Girl
has little to do with affairs of state and more to do with the affairs of the incredibly ambitious and manipulative Boleyn family. This is a family saga of Dynasty proportions, and is written by the talented Peter Morgan who did a marvellous job with
The Last King of Scotland
. On this film he does a good job of condensing history in a simple manner as we whip through events almost faster than Henry whipped the heads off his wives. But though the film has pace, it still feels like it drags.
It kicks off with the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) informing his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) that King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) has tired of his Spanish wife Queen Katherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) who has failed to provide him with a son, and as the King would no doubt be looking for a new distraction, why not present King Henry VIII with his eldest daughter, Anne (Natalie Portman)
While Anne's mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), is appalled at the idea of prostituting out her daughter, her husband and daughter understand how advantageous this relationship could be to the family and agree to the duke's plan. But when the king meets the Boleyn family, it is Anne's younger, married sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) who catches his eye and, to Anne's humiliation, it is Mary who is sent to court to be the King's mistress. When Mary becomes pregnant with the king's child, Anne returns from France where she has been living at court, and ambitiously proceeds to steal the king from both her sister and the queen.
Bana's Henry seems merely there to help tell the girls' story of sibling rivalry.
There is no doubt that Americans Johannson and Portman make English history attractive and will help broaden this chick flick's audience, but unfortunately next to actresses such as Scott Thomas and Torrent they look like a couple of Hollywood starlets in fancy dress who have wandered on to the wrong set.
Natalie Portman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana
M (Contains Sexual References)
Lido, Bridgeway, Rialto SkyCity, Hoyts and Berkeley Cinemas
A soap opera like family saga in period costume.