The Other Boleyn Girl is a historical interpretation of Anne Boleyn's (Natalie Portman) rise to power to become Henry VII's (Eric Bana) second wife and her fall from grace ending in her death in 1536. The film explores Anne's relationship with her family--most notably her relationship with her sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) who was the King's mistress before his marriage to Anne.
This movie has received a lot of criticism since it was released--and I will not argue that most of it is not well deserved. Scarlett Johansson is a flat-expressioned, ice queen next to Natalie Portman. Although to be fair, it would be incredibly hard to be compared to Portman's performance...but Johannson brought underwhelming to a whole new level. In this film Portman exhibited the range and commitment that would later go on to win her an Oscar while Johannson's attempts to be coy and innocent are cringe-worthy and best to be forgotten. Although, again to be fair, Portman is given a more complex character to work with when compared to poor Johansson--who portrays the innocent and pure Mary Boleyn. Mary has no depth as a character and combined with many of the factors mentioned above, Anne wins over the audiences despite the fact that she's utterly power-hungry and willing to step on anyone who gets in her way. Portman's ability to create a sense of sympathy for her character makes it all the more heartbreaking when Anne's tragic fate comes to fruition.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a romantic re-imagining of Henry VII's marriage to Anne Boleyn. It is filled with historical omissions and inaccuracies to an extent that is almost down-right irresponsible. But there are not enough good things to be said for the visual aspects of the film. The clothing (especially the headdresses worn by the women) and scenic backdrop are decadent visual fantasies. And despite all the things that were wrong with this film--and there were a lot of things wrong with this film--there is something so compelling about a story of powerless people searching for some shred of power in their lives. There is a bit of the Romeo and Juliet affect in effect--the audience knows that this story will end badly but it is impossible not to root for these two young girls.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a thinly veiled fictional story masquerading around as history. Portman does her best to keep the film afloat but average or lackluster performances from the rest of the cast and the obviously biased treatment of historical material keep the film from being an award-winning success. But even without critical success, The Other Boleyn Girl is an enjoyable story about a young girl who didn't understand the consequences of her search for power.