The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess directed by Justin Chadwick Movie Review

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Natalie Portman and Eric Bana in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

The Business of Being a Boleyn

With knowledge that Henry Tudor (Eric Bana) is looking for a mistress, Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and his brother-in-law The Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) arrange for the King to stay at the Boleyn home for a weekend where the plan is for Thomas's eldest daughter Anne (Natalie Portman) to win over the King and become his mistress and in doing so providing the family with a route to a higher pace in society. But things do not go to plan and after suffering a riding injury the King meets Anne's younger sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) who had recently married William Carey (Benedict Cumberbatch). Soon the King takes Mary as his mistress with her father, uncle and even husband working to make sure that Mary gives Henry the son he desires. But it leads to conflict between Mary and Anne who feels betrayed by her sister but all the more determined to get what she wants.

Here is how redundant history lessons were during my time at school in Britain during the 80s; we were taught about Henry VIII a subject which up until now and my decision to watch "The Other Boleyn Girl" had been of no use to me what so ever. As such I am not ashamed to admit that much of what I had been taught about Henry VIII had disappeared from my memory although I am pretty sure that we were never taught that Henry Tudor had been having an affair with Mary, Anne Boleyn's sister before they married and that would have probably been more interesting and memorable than what I was taught.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Scarlett Johansson in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Anyway as to "The Other Boleyn Girl", well despite my general disinterest in movies which are period dramas this one or at least the first half is quite interesting. Yet ironically what is interesting about it is not the sisters so much but her father, Uncle and Mary's husband. Watching these men try and manipulate the situation and Henry's not only lust for an attractive woman but his desire for a son is fascinating especially when it comes to their complete lack of respect and love for the sisters that they are happy to prostitute them. Of course we have the story which features the rivalry and jealousy of the sisters with Anne becoming a woman who sets about taking control of her own destiny but whilst this aspect is interesting it doesn't always grab you.

Unfortunately the second half of the movie lets things down because after creating this melodrama of jealousy, rivalry, deception and the machinations of Thomas and The Duke of Norfolk it feels like it jaunts through the history book to tell the rest of the story, the story which to some extent we are taught in history class when it comes to the break up of the church. It is a shame because whilst initially I was doubtful about the movie especially Eric Bana's casting as Henry Tudor the initial melodrama and all the machinations draw you in as do the performances.

What this all boils down to is that "The Other Boleyn Girl" is a lot more entertaining than I was expecting but it is a case that the first half of the movie is much better than the second half which unfortunately in feeling rushed lets things down.