A sumptuous and sensual tale of intrigue, romance and betrayal set against the backdrop of a defining moment in European history: two beautiful sisters, Anne and Mary Boleyn, driven by their family's blind ambition, compete for the love of the handsome and passionate King Henry VIII. Written by
Satisfying and entertaining, but it promised so much more
The Tudors are very chic at the moment. If it isn't "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (awful) or the television series, "The Tudors" (soft-pornographic trash), then it is "The Other Boleyn Girl", the latest film written by the Oscar nominated screenwriter, Peter Morgan. After his work on the Golden Globe winning TV film "Longford" and the Oscar winning (for its lead actors) "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland", his scripts must be in demand by actors across the globe. Little wonder then that this film attracts a stellar cast, including Eric Bana, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. So, why is it that this film, which is filled with great talent and potential, delivers only satisfaction? This was originally slated for release late last year, right in the middle of the awards season. Yet, for some reason, it was moved back. Why this was done is not widely known, but, as the IMDb had the film listed as completed last autumn, I should think that the decision was taken that this film would draw more attention outside of the congested awards season. Watching the film, you are aware of the ambition and lavish costumes that would draw the gaze of Oscar. But the film lacks punch, depth and the power to grip you the whole way through.
That's not to say that it isn't entertaining. Far from it, the film is, for an hour and a quarter, perfectly pleasant, with intrigue, scheming and romance aplenty. A lot of the credit must go to the performances, which range from accomplished to fantastically enjoyable to watch. Natalie Portman is impressive as Anne Boleyn. She ranges from scheming and nasty to genuinely sympathetic. It is her most notable work to date. Scarlett Johansson is fine, but everybody is still waiting for her to realise the potential she showed when she announced herself on the scene in "Lost in Translation" and "The Girl with the Pearl Earring". The supporting cast are a joy to watch. Eric Bana is excellent as Henry VIII, but it is the schemers in the background who provide the best entertainment. David Morrissey is having a lot of fun, whilst Mark Rylance and Kristin Scott Thomas are great as the Boleyn parents.
It is a perfectly bearable watch, but unfulfilling. There's an awful lot crammed into the hour and fifty minutes. As year after year of history is skipped through, the film's focus continually shifts, failing to allow certain characters from gaining appropriate intensity. Henry VIII is not as proactive as he might, or should, be. He is more driven then driving, whilst his first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), is given very little time on screen, thus sidelining a character which should be a figure of great interest. But your expectations are dashed mainly because the film reaches its climax with half-an-hour to go, with an emotional pinnacle being reached and never again surpassed. A rape scene, which seems to be the start of the culmination, with so many points of interest going on in it, proves to be the end of it. The last thirty minutes, whilst quite stylish, are drawn out and slow, and end with a final scene that can only be described as cheesy.
It's a shame that this film is nothing more than admirable in places. But it is a good film for this time of year (that springtime lull between the quality of Winter and the bombast entertainment of Summer). It is an entertaining and satisfying way to pass an afternoon, but it won't live long in the memory.
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