Deeper Into Movies: "The Other Boleyn Girl" (2008)

Eric Bana as King Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl
Courtesy of Alex Bailey

The problem with costume dramas, of course, is that you come for the costumes and don’t need to stay for the drama. The Other Boleyn Girl ends predictably — these things always do — with a head on a chopping block, but it’s a heavy-handed script and an atmosphere gloomier than winter in England that makes the film just a dreary footnote in the historical genre. With its inexorable conclusion always in mind, the movie, filled with grey castles, shadowy rooms and blue lens filters, never breaks from its morose tone. The acting is a bit brighter: In a nice break from her usual sex-kitten role, Scarlett Johansson is surprisingly sympathetic as Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana is excellent as the head-in-hands King Henry VIII, a man ruled by his royal member.

Johannson is the younger of two sisters vying for the king’s affections. Natalie Portman plays the high-flying, greedily ambitious Anne — Icarus in a corset. For a movie ostensibly built on their devastating sibling rivalry, their exchanges fizzle; it’s Bana who provides the most color. His Henry VIII is an unapologetic man of his time, a sex-crazed misogynist who tosses aside women like yesterday’s papers. That Queen Elizabeth, his daughter with Anne, becomes one of the greatest monarchs in the history of the world is ironic; that the film dims its star power with a lifeless production is no sadder than its too-inevitable ending.


Deeper into Movies
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