Movie News & Reviews

"The Other Boleyn Girl" needs more depth... Or zombies

I'm not very interested in history, myself. For one, there are nozombies 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, withnothing but incest, regicide, and evil scheming for the 30,000-oddyears 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 moreimportant. I bet a year's subscription to this column everyscreenplay written about a king was actually written by theirgreat-great-grandson. That would explain why Henry VIII in TheOther Boleyn Girl is all up on two of the five hottest women inthe known universe (suck it, Mars, everyone knows Olympia Mons is allimplants).

In real life Anne and Mary Boleyn probably looked like a pair ofstuffed pigs. But make everyone in the movie a supermodel who talksall fancy and everyone will be too taken in by the movie's gravity andeye candy to think twice, let alone notice how none of the charactershave enough personality to carry the film.

With the queen of England unable to produce a male heir for King EricBana (as Henry VIII), petty nobleman Mark Rylance schemes to catch theking's eye with quick-witted daughter Natalie Portman (as AnneBoleyn). On a hunt, her brashness causes Bana to be injured,disgracing her. Scarlett Johansson (Portman's sister Mary) treatsBana'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 tostare at her picture while sighing wistfully.

Johansson's recently married to a minor merchant, but with theprospect of untold riches and favor for all the family if she becomesthe king's mistress, both her father and her husband rush to pimp herout.

As the king's lover, Johansson does such a good job. She quicklybecomes pregnant and is shunted to the sidelines, leaving Portman freeto make another run at Bana. If she woos him, it could be to the ruinof the country, but for reasons that don't seem to go beyond simplejealousy, she really wants to bed that king.

The costumes in The Other Boleyn Girl look pretty great, soit's got that going for it. Despite the fact it's adapted from anovel, what it doesn't have is characters who live up to theirhistorical counterparts. Bana's so easily manipulated he comes offless as a king than England's Commander-in-Chump. Oh sure, it's hardto fault him when Portman and Johansson are the ones doing themanipulating, but after the umpteenth time he succumbs to the Boleyns'transparent shenanigans, it's hard to believe he wears his crown onhis head rather than this wang.

Portman's role isn't much better. There's a lot of talk about howcomplicated and interesting she is, but little showing of what she'sgot 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 becausesomebody says she is.

Then again, The Other Boleyn Girl appears to be under themistaken impression it's a play rather than a movie, as it takes everychance it can to yak about what's happening rather than dramatize it.Sample scene: KING HENRY: "You ask me to tear my kingdom apart!" (Cutback to the very same room, where outside the crowds can be heardbooing angrily.) "Well, now you've done it. The kingdom's all tornapart!"

Okay, so that's not really how it went down. In reality, you'd havealready sat through twenty scenes just like it.

I don't know why you'd want to confine a wild time in England'sheritage to a couple small rooms where cardboard noblemen and women donothing but seduce and blame each other all day. As a great-lookinghistory lesson, The Other Boleyn Girl's not too bad, though itsunderstanding of the people involved is about as deep as a Wikipediaentry. As either a drama or something that's fun to watch, it's 115minutes of failure.

Grade: C