Color, Pageantry Can't Save 'Boleyn Girl'

Morning Edition's film critic reviews The Other Boleyn Girl. The movie is based on Philippa Gregory's best-selling novel, set in 16th-century England. At that time, Henry VIII was king — and Anne Boleyn was looking to replace his queen.

Kenneth Turan says the film gets points for color and pageantry — but that ultimately it's a royal bodice-ripper with ideas above its station.

'The Other Boleyn Girl'

Portman and Johansson in 'The Other Boleyn Girl' i i

Anne (Natalie Portman, left) and Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) are sisters competing for the affection of King Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl. Alex Bailey/Sony Pictures Entertainment hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Bailey/Sony Pictures Entertainment
Portman and Johansson in 'The Other Boleyn Girl'

Anne (Natalie Portman, left) and Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) are sisters competing for the affection of King Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl.

Alex Bailey/Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Director: Justin Chadwick
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What is it lately, with all the regal costume epics filling their thrones with overgrown teenagers?

I mean, Sofia Coppola had thirtysomethings Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette flouncing around like high-schoolers on their way to the guillotine, and the Golden Age-d Elizabeth played by Cate Blanchett would've been well into her 50s — which makes all those elaborate hissy fits over Walter Raleigh look silly.

Now, in The Other Boleyn Girl, we learn where Liz picked up the predilection for tantrums: from mom Anne Boleyn, who's depicted here as the proto-sorority tease from hell. Dad Henry VIII, played by Eric Bana, would've been in his early 40s when they wed, and so is consequently a bit long of tooth himself to be mooning about like a 16-year-old.

But then no movie that casts Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson as sisters (Johansson plays sweet, dull Mary Boleyn, who also bedded Henry) is likely to be accused of reaching for realism. There's a smidgen of bodice-ripping, much urgent rushing down hallways, and acres of brocade and velvet on display — none of which makes Justin Chadwick's well-upholstered soap opera remotely interesting.

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