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The Other Boleyn Girl: I Want What’s Yours!

Posted by goldwriting on March 15, 2008

boleyn-girl.jpg The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout…

One of the most anticipated and talked about pairings in recent indie film history finally arrived in theaters two weeks ago. For those hoping I was going to talk about Will Ferrell and his rabid grizzly bear, you will be sorely disappointed. I am actually talking about the joining of two of the most consistently watchable and talented young actresses in Hollywood today, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. On the press tour for this film, both repeatedly expressed how excited they were to finally be working with one another, almost to the point of jumping the “we’re totally best friends now” shark, but however they truly feel about each other, it worked beautifully on screen.

The Other Boleyn Girl details the story of a father struggling to earn his family’s way back into the royal court and thereby out of debt, a common practice in those times. His real challenge is choosing which of his two daughters to bargain off to the most powerful bidder. His eldest, Anne Boleyn, played by Portman (greatest work to date: Garden State), is a determined, aggressive and manipulative young girl who will steamroll over anyone and anything to get what she wants. Her younger sister, Mary Boleyn, played by Johansson (greatest work to date: Lost in Translation), is the pure of heart second child who has become increasingly used to living in her older sister’s shadow. Henry VIII, played by Eric Bana (greatest work to date: Troy, horrible film but he was a remarkable Hector), twists these family ties into dangerous knots when instead of being wooed by Anne as his new mistress, he falls for the purity and honesty of Mary. Backstabbing and deviousness become all too common for this family as they try to keep their position in the king’s favor while Anne attempts to gain what she feels is rightfully hers.

Even taking a glancing look back into the history of mother England you can easily find what becomes of this story and the fate of Anne Boleyn, but this film is more about the untold story, that of the two sisters, which admittedly is a good deal fictionalized. Director Justin Chadwick (greatest work to date: this very film, The Other Boleyn Girl) did a superb job in tempering these two young star performances. Natalie is simmering from the opening shot and you can feel the power and determination ready to break through. While on the other side, Scarlett, made intentionally plain by her toned down make-up, also lets her own brand of power seep through, but it is rooted in righteousness instead of desire for power. The claws come out between the sisters as they fight over Henry’s affections until the fight breaches the boundary of family politics and spills into a national crisis and possible civil war. The pairing of these two actresses would also not be as well played in this film were it not for their foil, Eric Bana, who’s touching and troubled approach to this multi-faceted and much hated historical king actually manages to create a sense of empathy for someone mostly known for killing and banishing a number of his wives.

The film sorrowfully pulls the audience along, showing us the worst sides of humanity, while trying to instill the belief that there are always going to be some people who continually try to do what’s right. Fate, free will and the pressures of power are all heavy factors in this successfully painted picture. One of the main things I walked out of the theater thinking was the story shows the hand held closest also cuts the deepest. Check out the film if you are a fan of historical dramas, beautiful and subtle performances, and well executed plans of subterfuge. This one’s got it all.

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