Friday, May 29, 2009

Old Review of The Boleyn Girl: the movie

I wrote this when The Other Boleyn Girl came out a while ago- just wanted to post it to my blog.

It was hard not to roll my eyes during The Other Boleyn Girl.

To be fair, the book wasn’t the most accurate portrayal either, so it’s going to be automatically convoluted when it’s a movie based of an already dramatize version of history. However, the book was so intriguing and had such an emotional depth to its characters that it was at least believable within its context. I definitely love the book.

The movie had too much of a soap opera feel; it just didn’t know when to draw the line between believable and over the top. To those who are unfamiliar with the history, I can see that the intense drama makes it exciting to watch, no doubt, especially when there are beautiful actors to look at.

The real history behind it is that Mary Boleyn was indeed Henry VIII’s mistress before his sister, Anne, caught his eye, refused to be his mistress, and started on an unknowingly 7-year road towards the English Reformation. Henry wanted an annulment from Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne. Politically, this situation was a nightmare, and of course, its consequences changed England’s future in all aspects. The movie completely bypasses the entire political struggle and chooses to focus on the three-way love triangle that didn’t even happen in real life. The book obviously was about the sisterly relationship as well, but it at least managed to give the reader a sense of danger with a situation that so drastically changed English history.

Natalie Portman’s Anne left me a little disheartened, as Anne Boleyn is one of my heroines. Her portrayal of Anne was similar to the book as they both shed negative light on Anne as a calculating and heartless sister who would do nothing to stop her ambition of the being Queen. Yet the book managed to show more reasonable motives for Anne’s actions while Natalie Portman’s acting made it seem like I was watching this week’s episode of Mean Girls: The Boleyn Sisters.

Most historians look favorably upon Anne’s legacy and agree that Anne did not commit adultery and incest; rather, it was part of a political plot arranged by her enemies. The fact that she also produced no male heirs made her enemies case towards Anne that much stronger.

Very little is known about Mary Boleyn, which is probably why I took a liking to Scarlet Johansson’s gentle portrayal of the fair-hair sister, as it would be hard to screw up a role on a person we know so little about. In reality, her and Anne were not close at all; in fact, when Mary secretly married her second husband, William Stafford, Mary’s family disowned her since Stafford was below her social class. Mary made no attempt to contact her family during Anne’s downfall and lived out the rest of her life in the country with her husband and kids.

Eric Bana’s portrayal of Henry VIII was incredibly one-dimensional. He seemed like a man ruled solely by his penis and nothing else- and although it can be argued that the real Henry often lead with his desires, he also struggled with the political consequences of having no male heirs. In Henry’s defense, his father fought and won the War of the Roses that tore the country into civil war, which meant that without an heir for Henry, all that his father worked for would be lost.

The movie was only true to the book in its overall plotline, but the minor details that very much would give an honest feel of the Tudor period is completely missing in the movie. If you’re going to do a period movie, at least be true to the period. It’s more than just good-looking actors in 16th century costumes.

What makes me sad about this movie is that Hollywood felt the need to dress up an already fascinating history with hot actors, fake accents, brightly-colored costumes and melodramatic subplots and dialogue. Or is it trying to tell us that history otherwise is just not interesting enough for the modern day moviegoer?

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