Friday, February 29, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

“Our daughters are being traded like cattle for the advancement of men.”

The story centers around the two Boleyn girls. The older, more conniving Anne (Natalie Portman) and the sweeter, though simpler, Mary (Scarlett Johansson), are thrust into a world of societal intrigue and deception for which neither is prepared.

The bond between the sisters is put to the test when their father (Mark Rylance) and uncle (David Morrissey) ask Anne to attempt to seduce King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) and become his new mistress, only to discover he prefers the attentions of the other Boleyn girl - Mary.

What follows are schemes upon schemes, plotting, lies and deceptions which will leave England a far different country, and the Boleyn girls far worse for wear.

The story was adapted by Peter Morgan (The Queen) from the historical novel by Philippa Gregory. Although the novel became a best seller, the film always seems to be grasping for what made the story work on the printed page.

The Other Boleyn Girl certainly has style. The art direction and costumes are first rate. And in terms of performance our two leading ladies both do quite well, although the more understated performances of Bana and Kristin Scott Thomas are better suited to fit the tone and atmosphere of what the film should be, but sadly is not.

Given the subject matter the film needs to tread a fine line to not fall into melodrama. Unfortunately director Justin Chadwick isn’t able to prevent this from happening; in fact he seems quite content and happy to turn the film into an elaborate soap opera. In doing so however he distances us from the characters and events by making it impossible for us to feel anything for them or take these circumstances seriously. By the time the story gets around the the consequences of these actions and tries to turn serious I couldn’t make the leap. It’s like watching 50 minutes of Days of Our Lives and splicing in the last ten minutes of Masterpiece Theatre.

Although there’s plenty to look at, the great events happening in the background of this tawdry melodrama are too long ignored until long past the time where we have forgotten to think of these people characters or people and are waiting for twins with eye-patches to show up in the next scene. The film has been marketed on the hotness of the two leading ladies more so than the story, or their characters. In much the same way the film suffers from the same problem of attempting to capture our intention with costumes, settings, gossip, grandeur, and sex, without supplying any meaning beyond the superficial.

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