Let's go straight to the facts, shall we? The Other Boleyn Girl is by no means meant to be a good movie. It's meant to be, to put it bluntly, historical trash. It's a lot of speculation and furthering of legend that ends up being soap opera and bitch-slapping in laced-up bodices that are meant to be ripped (in soft focus). There are supposed to bad dialogue, bad accents and hilarious enunciations. Basically, the raison d'Ãªtre of the historical trash film is that it is meant to be so over-the-top bad, it loops back to good again.
This however, is sadly not the case with the PG-13 The Other Boleyn Girl. Though it possesses so many delicious elements of a trashy historical film, with first-rate actors to boot, it just doesn't go far enough. The result is a fun to laugh at, but ultimately bland, film that should've taken some pointers from The Tudors and stopped trying to be so classy when it's got such a great trashy core to exploit.
The drama of the movie follows the two Boleyn sisters as they clamber over each other to get to Henry VIII's (Eric Bana) bedchamber. Anne (Natalie Portman), is played here as an ambitious bitch--and victim; the movie gets a bit vague on the details--who managed to manipulate her way to the throne and have Catholicism booted from the country so the king could finally "do" her, apparently. Her sweet, good and less-famous sister, Mary (Scarlett Johansson), however, is the one who won him first as a mistress, and sort of genuinely falls for him, too. The movie even throws in an evil uncle (David Morrissey), who starts the whole thing by convincing his brother in-law to "win the favour" of the king with his two milky daughters. He then keeps pushing them back behind castle walls with lots of leering and ironic threatening of the family reputation.
The pacing of the movie is thankfully swift, sweeping us from how-to-seduce-the-king-with-horse- riding-sexual-innuendo 101 to "off with her head" fairly quickly. In between, there's an awkward and random rape scene, some hissing uses of the word "sister" and a near-incest scene. It's all slightly restrained with the PG-13 rating, though, and not nearly as gasp-worthy as it could've been. The one good thing is the acting, despite the eye-rollingly bad dialogue. Natalie Portman is convincing in those later scenes (incest included) when Anne becomes so sadly desperate in her attempts to bear a male heir and the king has lost interest in her. Kristin Scott Thomas also manages to add depth to her Boleyn mother character, a huge accomplishment given her meager three lines and delivers a really good slap to the evil uncle.
Largely, the movie could've been a tad more lascivious, more bodice ripping, more over-the-top. If you're going to go trashy, why not go whole-hog? So it is with a heavy heart that The Other Boleyn Girl is pronounced to be merely a satisfactory bad movie.
The Other Boleyn Girl is now in theatres.