March 1, 2008

Movie Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

This period drama could be called Elizabeth: The Prequel for potential marathons with the Cate Blanchett films. It does, after all, deal with Elizabeth's mother and her rise and fall from grace, not to mention being a key figure in kick starting the English Reformation with King Henry VIII. However, despite this being based on fact, I would not go so far as to call it all fact or to view it as some sort of history lesson. I am not so sure I would recommend viewing it for entertainment. Despite a cast boasting Natalie Portman, Scarlet Johansson, and Eric Bana, I would be hard pressed to rave about the acting, or any other portion.

The Other Boleyn Girl concerns itself with the sexual and personal politics used by families to gain stature, power, and wealth. It also shows what happens when one wields more power that they actually have and dig themselves in a hole of insurmountable odds. To top it off, the proceedings are handled in dry, melodramatic fashion that makes it look like a stage play with close-ups.

After sitting through the two hour long film, I am left wondering just what I was supposed to take from it. Was it the corruption of power (perceived or otherwise)? Or perhaps the ties of family? Maybe still it was just about the relationships and ways of a bygone era. Whatever the case may be, I left not really caring about any of it.

To be honest, the film is not bad on any technical level (of course, it did not excel either). It was shot well, had decent pacing, generally looked good. The problem was in the execution, it fails to bring any sort of heart or energy o the project. I found The Other Boleyn Girl to be lacking in the character department, I could not get up enough of a reason to care about the Boleyn girls or their fate.

The Boleyn family saga plays out like a twisted soap opera, with betrayal, seduction, and manipulation. If not for the execution of the tale, theirs is one of complicated fascination. The era is vastly different than our own and I cannot claim any real working knowledge other than what I remember from history class and what I have gleaned from other period dramas.

The father of the two Boleyn girls, Mary (Scarlet Johansson) and Anne (Natalie Portman), sought to use them to increase the family's standing and power. So, when the opportunity arose to potentially become mistress to the king (Henry VIII), he jumped at the chance and set Anne about the task of seduction.

What follows is Mary catching the eye of King HenryVIII, despite her being married already. He takes her as his mistress, which sets off Anne, who believes that to be her rightful place. Several betraying and manipulating steps later, the places of the two girls switch. Anne's power climbs higher and higher, and we all know what happens once you reach the top, there is no place to go but down.

I will spare you many of the boring details of the story. Suffice to say, the story itself does prove interesting, but the lack of any meat to bite into, well, it just comes across a bit bland.

A big problem are the performances, or perhaps it is the way they are written. I just did not like any of them. Are we supposed to see romance? Intrigue? Personal drama? Whatever they were going for I just did not see it. I could not identify with or even like them. The father was weak and selfish, Anne was manipulative and power hungry, and Mary, well, she was the closest to human but still lacked much depth.

I admit, this movie just may not be for me and from a genre that more often than not escapes me. I sat there wanting to like what I was presented with, but I couldn't. There is definitely plenty of intrigue to be milked, but everything is so stagey that it just sucks the humanity out and leaves melodrama that would be better seved on the stage,

Bear witness to Eric Bana's King Henry VIII stomp around like a petulant child who doesn't get what he wants and just sits on the floor and pouts. Watch as Scarlet Johansson whimpers her way through as Mary, never giving us anything to root for, simply making sad faces throughout. All the while Natalie Portman's Anne chews up everything in sight, nothing is left untouched as she boils over with supposed emotion.

Nothing clicked, and when it came to a merciful end I was left wondering why. There is certainly plenty of talent involved, why was this not more involving than it was? Why was everything so drained of personality with wildly overdone theatrics?

Whatever the truth behind the fiction is, you would be better served visiting the biographies written on her life than getting mixed up with this film.

Bottomline. You could do a lot worse on the big screen, but you could also do a lot better. There are those who eat this stuff up who are likely to enjoy seeing this dry telling play out. I hope it works out for you. As for me, I hesitate to call it bad, but it certainly could have been a whole lot more.

Not Recommended.


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