The Other Boleyn Girl

Unless you are just going to ogle the gorgeous costumes, you'd better brush up on your English history. This movie leaves huge gaps, implying that the audience already knows:
  • Henry VIII was a second son; his older brother died before ascending to the throne.
  • Henry married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, who claimed that her first marriage was never consummated.
  • Henry and Catherine had six children, only one of whom (Mary) survived. Henry wanted a male heir.
  • Catherine, a staunch Spanish Catholic, adamantly refused to have their marriage annulled.
  • The Pope refused Henry either a divorce or an annulment which would have freed him to marry Anne Boleyn.
  • Thomas More and Cardinal Wolsey aren't even mentioned, although in real life, they were deeply embroiled in the critical religious aspects of the situation.
  • Henry created the Church of England so his divorce and subsequent marriage to Anne would be legitimate.
  • Henry and Anne had a daughter, Elizabeth.
  • Catherine's daughter Mary claimed the throne after Henry's death but Elizabeth maintained that the Church of England was the "true" church, consequently she was legitimate and eligible to rule England.
  • The third of Henry's six wives was Jane Seymour, who bore him a sickly son, James, successor to Henry's throne, although eventually, Elizabeth assumed the crown and became the greatest monarch in England's history.

This 2008 version features a highly attractive cast:

  • Natalie Portman ("Closer" and "Beautiful Girls") is Anne Boleyn.
  • Scarlett Johansson ("Match Point" and "The Prestige") is her sister Mary, the other Boleyn girl.
  • Kristin Scott Thomas ("Four Weddings..." and "The English Patient") is their intelligent but powerless mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn.
  • Eric Bana ("Munich" and "Troy") is a young (30'ish), virile Henry VIII, who has the hots for both girls.

(There is also an earlier 2003 film of this book which stars Jodhi May and Natascha McElhone but it doesn't have Closed Captions.)

The best-selling book on which this movie is based, "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory, plays fast and loose with English history. It focuses on the eternal triangle -- two sisters and their man.

This isn't the first time Kristin Scott Thomas has played Scarlett Johansson's mother. They had the same relationship in "The Horse Whisperer."

Many of the exteriors were shot at Hampton Court which has been preserved by the British government from the time Henry VIII lived there with Anne Boleyn. Even though the interiors LOOK like they were shot there, I doubt if that would be allowed these days...

As a side note, only one of the four principal actors I have mentioned is actually English. From an American moviegoer's perspective, this helps. Even though they boast acceptable British accents, they are more easily understood by my unsophisticated American ears.

In my opinion, it was lucky for the UK that Elizabeth was born Church of England. Had she been Catholic, the Inquisition that blazed in Spain, Italy, Portugal and France during her reign, would have brought its tortures and brutalities to her shores as well.