The Other Boleyn Girl

Release Date: February 29, 2008
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Movie of the Day for Monday, September 3, 2007
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 Bow chicha wow wow. (Like you weren't thinking it already.)

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
31/196 Max Braden Performances by Portman and Ana Torrent as Katherine of Aragon are the reason to see this. The score doesn't serve the tone very well.
64/98 David Mumpower Quite possibly the biggest waste of talent of the year. I've seen operas that were not this boring. Wagner operas.

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When discussing end-of-year awards contenders, pedigree is the first major consideration. Let's be honest here. Name recognition matters, and this is the reason why The Other Boleyn Girl is an early frontrunner for the 2008 Oscars season. We can go through the checklist to demonstrate this. Is it based on a popular novel? Check. Does it have an impressive cast of big name celebrities? Check. Is it a historical piece that will allow for lavish costume design, thereby guaranteeing a few lower tier nominations? Check. Has the writer and/or director been nominated for an Academy Award? Check. Is Uwe Boll in any way involved? No.

Judging from the above, a few members of the production team for The Other Boleyn Girl should be practicing their acceptance speeches. While they diligently work to remember the name of their third grade teachers, let's examine why you, the potential movie viewer, should be interested. After all, simply being a major awards contender in no way guarantees a quality movie. We learned this the hard way while suffering through Dreamgirls, and we certainly do not want to repeat that mistake. Lousy movies like Dreamgirls lead to even lousier movies like Norbit, and then the cycle of suffering continues to repeat itself.

Author Philippa Gregory had written several moderately successful sequels prior to 2002. One of them, Earthly Joys, had even done well enough to justify a sequel, Virgin Earth. Even so, she was largely a credentialed academic scholar - a doctor of literature from the University of Edinburgh as well as a Fellow of Kingston University - rather than a populist scribe. The release of her historical drama, The Other Boleyn Girl, changed all of that. The novel was an instant hit, and its success eventually led to four sequels (including the wonderfully titled The Virgin's Lover) as well as a BBC television adaptation starring Solaris' Natasha McElhone. In 2007, a film adaptation featuring two Americans and an Australian will be apex of the novel's popularity.

The Other Boleyn Girl is a tale of 16th century court intrigue that chronicles the life of the titular Mary Boleyn, headless Anne's less often remembered younger sister. People watching Showtime's current series, The Tudors, are already familiar with the subject matter. The genesis of that show came from the heightened popularity of the Tudors, due in large part to Gregory's novel. Whereas The Tudors focuses primarily upon Henry VIII, the movie as well as the novel upon which it is based focus upon the relationship between the Boleyns. Mary is presented as a beautiful, easily manipulated girl who is directed by her father and sister to become the king's mistress. Anne, on the other hand, is best described as a conniving, vicious strategist willing to do anything to attain power. She betrays her sister (repeatedly), achieves the rank of Queen of England, adopts one of her sister's children (for spite), seduces her brother, and produces an incestuous bastard pregnancy (later miscarried). The Other Boleyn Girl makes the inner workings of Neverland Ranch looks wholesome and welcoming by comparison.

As was the case with Elizabeth, The Other Boleyn Girl highlights an already gripping premise (don't try to tell me you didn't find multiple parts of the paragraph above shocking and intriguing), this Columbia Pictures production also delivers one of the finest frontline casts of the year. Scarlett Johansson portrays the titular lead while Natalie Portman has been cast in the meatier role of the calculating Anne Boleyn. The man formerly called Hulk, Eric Bana, portrays the man who semi-accidentally splits the sisters apart. Fans of the novel are scandalized by these three leads as none of them is English, but this is Hollywood and drawing power matters. Johansson and Portman at war will mean box office drawing power in addition to awards pedigree. The real masterstroke of this project, however, is that the adaptation is being written by Peter Morgan. He just struck gold with 2006's exemplary court drama, The Queen, so another saga of royal intrigue is right in his wheelhouse as well as welcome news for film fans.

While the 2007-2008 awards season won't begin in earnest for another few months, The Other Boleyn Girl is already considered nearly a mortal lock for at least a few nominations (in costumes if nothing else). This knowledge alone makes it one of the most important releases on the fall schedule. The lone caveat BOP offers is that at this time last year, Johansson's last project, The Black Dahlia, looked similarly great on paper. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Other Boleyn Girl
Main Cast Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana
Supporting Cast Kristin Scott Thomas, Mark Rylance, David Morrissey
Director Justin Chadwick
Screenwriter Peter Morgan
Distributor Sony/Columbia
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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