Monday, 3 January 2011

The Other Boleyn Girl

It is hard to know how any man would not look twice at the either of the Boleyn sisters. However, King Henry managed to reduce the art of courtship to the single word 'tonight' and what the King wants the King gets. His libido is seemingly only topped by the complete lack of any morality amongst the male characters in this film which is more fantasy than history. This is no costume drama that seeks to retell history - it's more like an episode of Dallas or Dynasty recast in medieval times!

The women in this film are the victims as they are traded like cattle at a market to enable their 'owners' to progress up the ladder of social standing and influence. Having set up Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) for a meeting with the monarch it is Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) who makes it first into the royal bed. Initially she is is depicted as unwilling - she is herself newly married and craves only the quiet life in the country. Anne is a more scheming, intelligent and manipulative character. She raises the stakes and ends up paying the ultimate price. The girls' mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) vainly tries to point out the moral bankruptcy with which the men are carrying out their transactions - but to no avail. Catherine of Aragon is unusually shown as a sharp, attractive and morally principled woman who refuses to bend to the bullying of her husband. It is good to see a film where the women, whilst abused and bullied, are seen as upholding a sense of morality. It's a pity that they come up against the most immovable object English history has known - a King unable to sire a healthy son and heir.

This film could have been so much more than simply a vehicle for eye candy and an expose of England's moral bankruptcy. A TV movie at Christmas is probably the right slot for this. I'll give it 6/10.

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