Sunday, August 31, 2008

Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

I'm often late to the excitement over movies. I don't often see productions until months, or even years, later. (If it weren't for Netflix, I'd probably never see some movies at all.) Sometimes I believe the distance in time helps though. It gives me fresh eyes to watch something anew without the hype or criticism of others, all of which ultimately can ruin the experience of the movie itself. That said, I watched The Other Boleyn Girl this evening. I'm a sucker for a great period piece, and in my opinion this one worked. The writing and the acting was solid (okay, some of the British accents could have been better). The settings and costumes were beautifully rendered (okay, they were a bit too exquisite and clean). The movie is taken from the novel of the same name by Philippa Gregory, which tells a fictionalized rendition of Mary and Anne Boleyn, sisters who both become the lover of King Henry VIII, the latter eventually marrying him and becoming his second queen and mother of the future Elizabeth I. Admittedly, there was serious manipulation of historical facts in the film, but this isn't a documentary so they're allowed some latitude. Both Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson continue to surprise me with their talents. It's as if I'm always expecting that they couldn't be that good, and then I realize they are. Johansson has this ethereal presence on the screen, her pale skin and watery eyes making her like a mermaid come to live among us, while Portman has this earthy beauty that grounds you and makes you realize these two are human after all. As for the men, Eric Bana is simply gorgeous. Contrary to popular belief, Henry VIII wasn't always a bloated, overwrought monarch. In his youth, he was athletic, poetic, and a ladies' man (although I seriously doubt he looked anything like Jonathan Rhys Meyers's version in The Tudors). Bana's acting in the film lends itself more toward the physical then the verbal; his facial expressions reveal the turmoil Henry is suffering from as he's bewitched by Anne and agonizes over his divorce and excommunication from the Catholic Church. One final queer note is worth mentioning. Jim Sturgess plays brother George Boleyn, and although it's never outright stated in the movie, it's apparent from his love of the court and his sexual rejection of his wife that he's homosexually inclined. In truth, he probably would have been bisexual rather than homosexual. Sixteenth-century sexual politics aside, it's worth remembering that the movie is based on a novel, and that there are manipulations from the facts. Then again, isn't that the beauty of historical fiction?

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