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A Look at The Other Boleyn Girl

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The Other Boleyn Girl, a film focusing on the lives and intrigue of those in the Tudor court, hit movie theaters in the United States this week. Based upon the novel of the same name by Phillippa Gregory, the film stars Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson as the two sisters fighting for the love of one King Henry VIII, played here by Australian actor Eric Bana. The movie is directed by Justin Chadwick and Gregory's novel is adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan. The story here is a fictional account of the historical events surrounding Henry and his affairs with the two Boleyn girls, Mary and Anne.

The book itself comes in at just about seven hundred pages. It details each and every event in that time period from the perspective of Mary Boleyn. During those seven hundred pages, we are taken step by step through how the monarch finds himself in between two sisters. We see his courtship of Mary, and then not long afterward, we see him put her aside at the request of her own sister, Anne. We also see him put aside his own wife and change the landscape of England forever by separating it from the Pope and Rome to marry Anne in order to have a male heir to the throne. The book is one that is hard to put down. I found myself engrossed, turning page after page.

The movie, coming in at just under two hours, makes selective use of the book for its screenplay as it would be hard to cover the whole history of the time period in such a brief time. The televised account of this time period seen on the cable network Showtime last year came in at just under ten hours, and it still has more to tell given that a second season is soon to premiere. What we have in the movie is an abbreviated telling of the main points of the story. Mary Boleyn, played here by Scarlett Johansson, meets and falls in love with the King, and we see her tossed aside when her sister Anne, played by Natalie Portman, enchants him while Mary is lying in wait to give birth to his child, a son that he desperately wants. However, the birth is no matter because as she is in labor, Anne is cementing her own place in the King's heart. In the time that follows, we see Anne climb to power, and then fall just as quickly.

The last twenty minutes of the movie are a rushed account of her fall, which is dealt with more clearly in the novel. This rushed feeling might leave some fans of the book unsatisfied with how the movie handles the source material. Characters mentioned heavily in the book are merely brushed upon or not mentioned at all in the movie. The movie focuses mostly on the three main characters, George Boleyn, and the Howard family. We barely see William Carey or the romance and courtship of Mary's second husband William Stafford in the film, while these are heavily mentioned in the novel. Something else totally ignored in the film is the topic of homosexuality, which is something dealt with a great deal in the novel, but it is completely eliminated here. In the book, George Boleyn is known to have a male lover. This is not mentioned once in the film. They only allude to the incest that takes place between him and his sister Anne, which in the film is shown to never have taken place at all.

The film visually takes you back to that time period with its costuming and look. Filmed last year in England, there is no doubt that much care was taken in making it look authentic. As for the acting, the three principle actors are all superb here. Scarlett and Natalie as the two sisters at war with each other are convincing, and they both do well in these roles. Eric Bana as King Henry VIII is also well suited for this role. His Henry is much different than the Henry we see in The Tudors. Bana as an actor is intimidating with his size and his glaring stare, which suits the monarch well in this film. With one look, no words are really needed, and that is used here to its full advantage. This film for fans of the book or of the time in history is one to check out. I found myself glued to my seat the entire time, and it was seven dollars well spent.

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