The Other Boleyn Girl (Sony, 2008) D: Justin Chadwick, w/ Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Before plunging into the feature, it’s worth taking a look at To Be A Lady, the high point of the extras package. It provides a good orientation to the life paths open to Tudor women and the manners of the time, specifically that the generalized scheming and the use of daughters to advance family fortunes were an ordinary part of court life.
Prime schemer Thomas Howard (a delightfully detestable David Morrissey) wants to thrust his clever niece Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) on the young and virile Henry VIII (Eric Bana), but Henry takes to Anne’s more modest and trustworthy sister, Mary (Scarlett Johansson). Sibling war erupts, complicated by Henry’s legal wife (icy Ana Torrent), a break with the Catholic Church, incest and more.
This film doesn’t have much to do with history, but it’s good, clean fun with great locations, wonderful costumes and lots of energy, thanks to director Justin Chadwick’s fast-paced, two-camera shoot on HD (the same approach Frank Darabont used to energize The Mist).
Portman and Johansson are the weakest links. They’ve both been good elsewhere, but here they go for soap-opera petulance and anguish. That may be the result of Chadwick’s commitment to a “contemporary” feel, which gives Kristin Scott Thomas, as the girls’ mother, dialogue more fitting for a 1970s feminist, or it may be the result of studio-prompted over-editing. Some of those 12 deleted and extended scenes should have been kept.
EXTRAS Director commentary, Tudor women doc, screenplay doc, character biographies, camera tests with director commentary, deleted and extended scenes. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.