Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bonnywood Archives: "The Other Boleyn Girl"

Note:  This was originally posted on my "Popcorn in the Dark" blog, a movie review site that I apparently lost interest in after just this single entry. Perhaps I should rethink that?

Okay, right off the bat, kind of a crappy title, right?

The history books (well, at least the history books that I ran across) already make little mention of this shadowy sister of Anne Boleyn. But we're gonna make a movie about her and still not even mention her name! How's that for your self-esteem?

Seriously, they could have at least come up with some vague, innocuous title like "Second Fiddle" or "My Enemy, My Sister" or "Fleur de Lis". Something. But no, they slap a title on the movie that sounds like somebody's research notes. Good planning, there.

Anyway, on to the movie. We have Eric Bana as Henry VIII, Natalie Portman as Anne, and Scarlett Johansson as.... see, I can't even remember her name. Probably "Mary". Lots of people were named Mary back in the day, we'll go with that.

Initially, as youngsters and then budding women, sisters Anne and Mary are besties, lots of scenes with them running about, cavorting discreetly, bonding, and wearing restrictive clothing. Of course, we do have Mummy and Daddy and really atrocious uncle plotting on the sidelines for the most politically and financially-astute arranged marriages for the frolicking girls, a sure sign of impending doom.

Then here comes Eric Bana, I mean Henry VIII, looking mighty fine on a horse. (In fact, all of the leads look pretty plush, considering that somebody decided to go for the "natural look" and none of the stars seem to be sporting any makeup.) Henry decides that he wants to play slap and tickle with Mary, instead of the family-proffered Anne.

Instantly, Anne transitions from soul-mate sister to scheming shrew. Okay, maybe not instantly, but the family does send her to France for some skill-sharpening, and she comes back with a very large croissant up her ass. End result, she MEAN.

Then we have some business with Mary not being able to provide a much-needed male heir to the throne. Lots of scenes of Suffering Mary trying really hard to do what's expected, with Anne running around and making things even more difficult. Anne is really rude, just sayin. (Look, Anne, you get to live in a castle and such, with people who bring you things whenever you want them. This is a good thing. Revel in the delight. But no, Anne insists on vicious jibes and mockery of relatives.)

Eventually, of course, Henry tires of all this whining and non-production of babies, and he grows impatient. After all, he's able to change the religion of an entire country with the waving of his hand, so why IS it that these underlings can't find a suitable fertile woman for him to make sport with?

So he boots out Mary and tries another flavor of Boleyn, probably because the castle staff will only have to change one letter on all the monogrammed bits of the palace. Anne rushes in, saliva dripping, only to find that pleasing the king is a bit more complicated than having a bodice with quick-release touch points. There’s that whole thing about his enormous ego and his fondness for letting the guillotine help him win arguments.

And Anne’s not real successful with that damn male-heir thing, either. She spits out Elizabeth, of course, but people weren’t really interested in a child without a dangly thing. Then the rumors start: She's been playing hide and seek, if you will, with her brother. The whole Boleyn family has been misbehaving, and members of such have gone so far as to frequent unsavory nightclubs. And Anne has been spotted wearing white after Labour Day. The horror.

In the end, all of the Boleyns are executed, destroyed socially, or forced to wear cheap linen. Except for Mary, who retires to a cottage in the country and lives a full life, presumably working in her chaste garden and shyly flirting with the inevitable gnomes who inhabit such places. Good for her.

Moral of the story? Life's too short. Don't bang the king unless you're just really, really bored.

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