Young Hollywood starlets, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson star as two sisters vying for King Henry’s attention in the Shakespearean-esque drama, “The Other Boleyn Girl.”
In an effort to secure his kingdom, English King Henry Tudor (Eric Bana) needs a son to continue his royal bloodline. His wife the Queen has only given him daughters and stilborns and the great king grows weary. Meanwhile, on the other side of country, a wicked and conniving family, the Boleyns, hatch a plan to gain entry into the king’s court. They will introduce Anne (Portman) to his highness and hope that he takes the bait, makes her his mistress and give him the son that dearly desires.
After an unfortunate riding accident, Henry sours on Anne and cast his eyes on her younger married sister, Mary. In no time flat, Henry moves the Boleyn family to his royal court and begins openly flaunting his “side piece” in front of the Queen. After being exiled in France, Anne returns to the court when her sister Mary begins to experience complications with the unborn child. The vengeful sister undermines Mary and cast a powerful love spell over King Henry. Telling him that she will not lay with him until first he denounces Mary and her bastard child and later the Queen – thereby severing the ties of England with the Roman Church and the Pope. Should the King consolidate his throne or follow his Royal “Love Jones?”
Playing like a royal version of “Beverly Hills 90210,” the film’s soap opera quality including charges of deceit, adultery and incest begins to wear a little thin by the third act. Screenwriter Peter Morgan’s (“The Queen”) script, benefits from strong performances from his three leads, Portman, Johansson and Bana as well as Kristen Scott Thomas, but Johansson’s character is the most puzzling. Taken from her husband, shunned by both Henry and her sister Anne, her character suffers in silence but maintains the intestinal fortitude to rise above all their slights and by film’s end is the most honest and noble character.
Outside of her sensual performance in “Closer,” this is Portman’s most sexually-charged performance. She uses her woman wiles to their fullest, thoroughly frustrated Henry and having him comprise mostly all of his beliefs in the name of lust. Although the film denigrates into a made-for-television mini-series in the third act, “The Other Boleyn Girl” succeeds as the initial film along with “A Man For All Seasons,” “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” painting a somewhat accurate picture of life with The Tudors.