I'm not very interested in history, myself. For one, there are no zombies in it. That's not a world I want to live in.
More importantly, from the way books and movies about old stuff play, it's as if humor wasn't invented until the early 20th Century, with nothing but incest, regicide, and evil scheming for the 30,000-odd years of human culture before then. No doubt those things are cool, but man, was everyone in the past serious.
Or maybe they're just written that way to make everything seem more important. I bet a year's subscription to this column every screenplay written about a king was actually written by their great-great-grandson. That would explain why Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl is all up on two of the five hottest women in the known universe (suck it, Mars, everyone knows Olympia Mons is all implants).
In real life Anne and Mary Boleyn probably looked like a pair of stuffed pigs. But make everyone in the movie a supermodel who talks all fancy and everyone will be too taken in by the movie's gravity and eye candy to think twice, let alone notice how none of the characters have enough personality to carry the film.
With the queen of England unable to produce a male heir for King Eric Bana (as Henry VIII), petty nobleman Mark Rylance schemes to catch the king's eye with quick-witted daughter Natalie Portman (as Anne Boleyn). On a hunt, her brashness causes Bana to be injured, disgracing her. Scarlett Johansson (Portman's sister Mary) treats Bana's wounds, winning the king's favor with her kindness, gentleness, and also the fact she's so gorgeous I'm taking the next week off to stare at her picture while sighing wistfully.
Johansson's recently married to a minor merchant, but with the prospect of untold riches and favor for all the family if she becomes the king's mistress, both her father and her husband rush to pimp her out.
As the king's lover, Johansson does such a good job. She quickly becomes pregnant and is shunted to the sidelines, leaving Portman free to make another run at Bana. If she woos him, it could be to the ruin of the country, but for reasons that don't seem to go beyond simple jealousy, she really wants to bed that king.
The costumes in The Other Boleyn Girl look pretty great, so it's got that going for it. Despite the fact it's adapted from a novel, what it doesn't have is characters who live up to their historical counterparts. Bana's so easily manipulated he comes off less as a king than England's Commander-in-Chump. Oh sure, it's hard to fault him when Portman and Johansson are the ones doing the manipulating, but after the umpteenth time he succumbs to the Boleyns' transparent shenanigans, it's hard to believe he wears his crown on his head rather than this wang.
Portman's role isn't much better. There's a lot of talk about how complicated and interesting she is, but little showing of what she's got that could beguile a king (well, other than a perfect face/body). It's like we're supposed to believe she's all entrancing just because somebody says she is.
Then again, The Other Boleyn Girl appears to be under the mistaken impression it's a play rather than a movie, as it takes every chance it can to yak about what's happening rather than dramatize it. Sample scene: KING HENRY: "You ask me to tear my kingdom apart!" (Cut back to the very same room, where outside the crowds can be heard booing angrily.) "Well, now you've done it. The kingdom's all torn apart!"
Okay, so that's not really how it went down. In reality, you'd have already sat through twenty scenes just like it.
I don't know why you'd want to confine a wild time in England's heritage to a couple small rooms where cardboard noblemen and women do nothing but seduce and blame each other all day. As a great-looking history lesson, The Other Boleyn Girl's not too bad, though its understanding of the people involved is about as deep as a Wikipedia entry. As either a drama or something that's fun to watch, it's 115 minutes of failure.