There comes a time in every king’s life where he wishes to father a male child that will one day take his place. In The Other Boleyn Girl, this is how we open. King Henry (Eric Bana) is the one wishing a son, and his wife, Catherine (Ana Torrent), ends up producing a stillborn baby, and then become infertile, he decides to look elsewhere, despite his marriage still being intact.
The Boleyn family decide to take advantage of this, and ask the King to stay with them. Their plan is to set their daughter Anne (Natalie Portman) up with him, by having her attempt to make him infatuated. However, it’s the Boleyn’s other daughter, Mary (Scarlett Johansson) who ends up catching his eye, even though she has been recently married. But that doesn’t stop the King, who decides to ignore this marriage and make Mary his mistress, one who will father him a proper heir.
And so begins our tale of betrayal, love, heartbreak, and a lot of other melodramatic stuff that ends up becoming insufferable after the two hours we spend with these characters. By the time The Other Boleyn Girl was just about over, I was hoping with all my might that it would just cut to the credits, and that I could research what became of this (somewhat) true story. But alas, we had to see it through to the very end, and even after our story had concluded, we got a bunch of text telling us what becomes of all of the characters involved.
I think the main reason that this film doesn’t end up working is due to how terrible each one of the characters are. Granted, they’re not all underdeveloped, but a lot of them are one-note, and that note isn’t very pretty sounding. Henry is an adulterer, who will stop at nothing to birth a son (and even when he gets one, it’s not good enough for some reason). Mary just kind of sits in bed for most of the movie whining, while Anne is a jealous witch, (literally, according to some of the characters in the film), who starts out somewhat sympathetic, but matures into a manipulative and malevolent person.
This is also a film that seems to drag on forever. After it was over, I would have sworn it was at least two and a half hours long. But in reality, it didn’t even reach the two hour mark. It just felt like it was extraordinarily long. I wasn’t bored, exactly, but I found my eyes starting to close, my mind starting to wander, and my heart still failing to care about anyone involved.
I did like the scenery and the costuming, which made me feel like I was back in the 16th century. This is a period piece, back when Kings and Queens ruled the land (although women really didn’t have much right to do anything). There’s actually quite a lot of dialogue in The Other Boleyn Girl related to female empowerment, although not much is actually done with the subject, and the one woman to act out against men ends up getting her head chopped off. (Or so it is implied, because this is a PG-13 movie, and they didn’t show anything.)
The story seems weird, in that it crosses into becoming a life film far more frequently than it should. Our lead character should be the King, but instead, we spend our time split mostly between Anne and Mary. While one is attempting to get along with the king, the other is noticeably absent. And when they both require focus, they’re playing diametric opposites, with one hating the other for her actions. The plot gets lost in the characters and their situations, which is unfortunate, because if it had focused on the King and his “plight,” it might have been more interesting.
The ending also seemed odd, although that’s how it apparently played out in real life too. I just felt like it came from out of nowhere, and expected us to care, but by this point, I had switched off emotions and watched just to see it through. I should have turned it off and read about the Boleyn family online, because it would have been quicker, and since I wouldn’t have known how horrible they all were, I might have cared when I came to the end of their tale.
In terms of performances, the actors all pull their weight. The three primary characters were all played by foreign actors (Portman and Johansson are American, while Bana is Australian) but their accents were good enough to convince me. They also did a good job of embodying their characters, even if I didn’t like the people they transformed into. Call it a wasted effort this time around for these actors.
If this is what really happened, and not just a loose adaptation, then I have to question whether or not these people are time travelers with how well their lives managed to replicate a modern-day soap opera. The melodrama, betrayal, rivalry — it’s all there. Actually, now that I think about it, if one of them could time travel, wouldn’t this end up being a better film? Oh well. In the end, we don’t get to see that aspect, and must assume that it’s either pure chance, or the filmmakers ended up chopping up these lives and turning them into clichés.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a film that failed to touch my heart, make me care, or even force me to pay much attention to what was going on. The plot is incredibly simple and ends up not factoring in all that much, the characters become insufferable, and everything goes on for way too long. Save yourself the trouble and just read up about the Boleyn family online.