The Other Boleyn Girl (2008 film)
|The Other Boleyn Girl|
|Directed by||Justin Chadwick|
|Screenplay by||Peter Morgan|
|Based on||The Other Boleyn Girl|
by Philippa Gregory
|Produced by||Alison Owen|
|Music by||Paul Cantelon|
|Box office||$80.7 million|
The Other Boleyn Girl is a 2008 historical romantic drama film directed by Justin Chadwick. The screenplay by Peter Morgan was adapted from Philippa Gregory’s 2001 novel of the same name. It is a fictionalised account of the lives of 16th-century aristocrats Mary Boleyn, one-time mistress of King Henry VIII, and her sister, Anne, who became the monarch's ill-fated second wife, though the film does not represent history accurately.
King Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon is troubled as she has not produced a living male heir to the throne, having only one surviving child, Princess Mary. Mary Boleyn marries William Carey. After the festivities, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and his brother-in-law Thomas Boleyn plot to install Thomas' eldest daughter, Anne, as the king's mistress, with the hope that she will bear him a son and improve the family's wealth and status, much to the disgust of Anne's mother, Lady Elizabeth. Despite knowing that being a mistress will damage her chances of a high-ranking marriage, a reluctant Anne agrees to please her father and uncle.
While visiting the Boleyn estate, Henry is injured in a hunting accident indirectly caused by Anne. Urged by her scheming uncle, Mary nurses Henry. Henry becomes smitten and invites her to court, to which Mary and her husband reluctantly agree, fully aware of what will be expected of her. Mary and Anne become ladies-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, and Henry sends William Carey abroad on an assignment. Separated from her husband, Mary begins a passionate affair with the king and finds herself falling in love with him. Anne secretly marries the nobleman Henry Percy, although he is already betrothed to Lady Mary Talbot. Anne confides in her brother, George Boleyn, about the marriage. Overjoyed, George proceeds to tell Mary. Fearing Anne will ruin their family, Mary alerts her father and uncle. They confront Anne, forcibly annul the marriage, and exile her to France.
Mary eventually becomes pregnant with Henry's child. Her family receives new grants and estates, their debts are paid, and Henry arranges George's marriage to Jane Parker. When Mary nearly suffers a miscarriage, she is confined to bed until the child is born. Norfolk recalls Anne to England and is tasked to keep Henry's attention from wandering to another rival while Mary is confined. Believing that Mary betrayed her solely to increase her status, a revenge-driven Anne starts seducing Henry herself. When Mary gives birth to a son, Henry Carey, Thomas and Norfolk are thrilled, but the celebration is short-lived as Anne tells the king that the boy is still a bastard who can never inherit the throne. She also states that for her to accept his advances, he must no longer bed his wife and stop talking to Mary completely. This infuriates Norfolk, as Henry refuses to acknowledge the baby as his heir, but later changes his mind when Anne reveals her intent to give the king a legitimate son. At her request, Henry has Mary exiled to the countryside, leaving her heartbroken. Her grief only grows when her husband dies of the sweating sickness, leaving her a widow.
Anne further manipulates Henry into breaking from the Catholic Church when the Pope refuses to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine. A smitten Henry succumbs to her demands, declares himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, gets Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to annul the marriage and Catherine is banished from court. Having fulfilled her requests, Henry comes to Anne's chambers, but she still refuses to have sex with him until they are married (not wanting to give birth to a son out of wedlock). Overcome with both rage and lust, Henry brutally rapes her. While deeply traumatized by the assault, a now pregnant Anne marries Henry to please her family and becomes the new Queen of England. Mary is recalled to court to serve Anne and the sisters form an uneasy truce for the sake of their family. Later on, Mary meets William Stafford, a financially modest, but kind soldier and a romance eventually blossoms between the two.
Despite the birth of a healthy daughter, Elizabeth, Henry blames Anne for not immediately producing a son. As queen, she is greatly hated by the public who denounce her as a witch while as a wife, Henry starts to despise her and begins courting Jane Seymour in secret. As her marriage falls apart, Anne becomes increasingly depressed and paranoid.
After she miscarries a son, a hysterical Anne begs George to impregnate her again out of fear of being burned at the stake for witchcraft. At first, George reluctantly agrees, seeing it not only as Anne's only chance for survival, but their entire family's. However, the pair do not go through with the act. Unbeknownst to them though, George's neglected wife, Jane, under orders from Norfolk to spy on Anne, witnesses enough of the encounter to become suspicious. She reports her findings and the two are arrested. Despite the lack of any solid evidence, Anne and George are immediately found guilty by a biased jury and sentenced to death for treason, adultery and incest. A devastated Lady Elizabeth disowns both her husband and brother, vowing never to forgive them for the pain and destruction they brought upon all of her children solely out of their own quest for power.
Leaving her children with Stafford, Mary rushes back to London but arrives too late to save George, who is beheaded in front of their horrified father. Henry agrees to meet with her and she pleads with him to spare Anne's life, stating that her sister is her other half. Due to him saying he would never harm any part of her, Mary believes Anne has been spared and leaves to see her right before the scheduled execution. The two sisters truly reconcile and Anne asks Mary to look after Elizabeth if anything should happen to her.
As the execution begins, Mary watches Anne make her final speech, waiting for the cancellation. A messenger then delivers a letter from the king to her, revealing his decision to have Anne executed after all and warning her to never return to his court again. Mary can only watch in horror as her sister is beheaded. She fulfills her final promise to Anne and immediately leaves court with the toddler Elizabeth.
A textual epilogue reveals Thomas died two years after Anne and George's executions while Norfolk was imprisoned and the next three generations of his family executed for treason; Mary married Stafford and lived out her days away from court, and Elizabeth went on to rule England for over forty years as queen.
- Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn. Portman was attracted to the role because it was a character that she "hadn’t played before", and describes Anne as "strong, yet she can be vulnerable and she's ambitious and calculating and will step on people but also feels remorse for it". One month before filming began, Portman started taking daily classes to master the English accent under dialect coach Jill McCulloch, who also stayed on set throughout the filming. This was her second film to use her English accent after V for Vendetta. Natalie Portman wore hair extensions for the long hair because her hair was short at the time after shaving her head for V for Vendetta.
- Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn.
- Eric Bana as Henry VIII of England. Bana commented that he was surprised upon being offered the role, and describes the character of Henry as "a man who was somewhat juvenile and driven by passion and greed", and that he interpreted the character as "this man who was involved in an incredibly intricate, complicated situation, largely through his own doing". In preparation for the role, Bana relied mostly on the script to come up with his own version of the character, and he "deliberately stayed away" from other portrayals of Henry in films because he found it "too confusing and restricting".
- Jim Sturgess as George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford. Though the three siblings are all very tight-knit, George and Anne are closest. George supports and loves Anne for her rebellious and unconventional attitude. He is forced to marry Jane Parker. George is often viewed as the most vulnerable and probably the kindest of the siblings.
- Kristin Scott Thomas as Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire and Ormond
- Mark Rylance as Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond
- David Morrissey as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk
- Benedict Cumberbatch as William Carey
- Oliver Coleman as Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
- Ana Torrent as Catherine of Aragon
- Eddie Redmayne as William Stafford
- Juno Temple as Jane Parker
- Iain Mitchell as Thomas Cromwell
- Corinne Galloway as Jane Seymour
- Constance Stride as young Mary Tudor
- Maisie Smith as young Elizabeth Tudor
- Alfie Allen as the King's Messenger
- Andrew Garfield as Francis Weston
Much of the filming took place in Kent, England, though Hever Castle was not used, despite being the original household of Thomas Boleyn and family from 1505 to 1539. The Baron's Hall at Penshurst Place featured, as did Dover Castle, which stood in for the Tower of London in the film, and Knole House in Sevenoaks was used in several scenes. The home of the Boleyns was represented by Great Chalfield Manor in Wiltshire, and other scenes were filmed at locations in Derbyshire, including Cave Dale, Haddon Hall, Dovedale and North Lees Hall near Hathersage.
Dover Castle was transformed into the Tower of London for the execution scenes of George and Anne Boleyn. Knole House was the setting for many of the film's London night scenes and the inner courtyard doubles for the entrance of Whitehall Palace where the grand arrivals and departures were staged. The Tudor Gardens and Baron's Hall at Penshurst Place were transformed into the interiors of Whitehall Palace, including the scenes of Henry's extravagant feast.
Historian Alex von Tunzelmann criticised The Other Boleyn Girl for its portrayal of the Boleyn family and Henry VIII, citing factual errors. She stated, "In real life, by the time Mary Boleyn started her affair with Henry, she had already enjoyed a passionate liaison with his great rival, King François I of France. Rather ungallantly, François called her 'my hackney', explaining that she was fun to ride. Chucked out of France by his irritated wife, Mary sashayed back to England and casually notched up her second kingly conquest. The film's portrayal of this Boleyn girl as a shy, blushing damsel could hardly be further from the truth." She further criticised the depiction of Anne as a "manipulative vixen" and Henry as "nothing more than a gullible sex addict in wacky shoulder pads". The film presents other historical inaccuracies, such as the statement by a character that, through marrying Henry Percy, Anne Boleyn would become Duchess of Northumberland, a title that was only created in the reign of Henry's son, Edward VI. Also, it places Anne's time in the French court after her involvement with Percy, something that occurred before the affair. On top of that, Anne was portrayed inaccurately as the older sister in the movie, in real life she was Mary's younger sister. In the film, Thomas Boleyn stated Anne was in France for a couple months. In real life Anne was in France for seven years.
The film was first released in theatres on February 29, 2008, though its world premiere was held at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival held on February 7–17, 2008. The film earned $9,442,224 in the United Kingdom, and $26,814,957 in the United States and Canada. The combined worldwide gross of the film was $75,598,644, more than double the film's $35 million budget.
The film was released in Blu-ray and DVD formats on June 10, 2008. Extras on both editions include an audio commentary with director Justin Chadwick, deleted and extended scenes, character profiles, and featurettes. The Blu-ray version includes BD-Live capability and an additional picture-in-picture track with character descriptions, notes on the original story, and passages from the original book.
The film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 43%, based on 148 reviews, with a weighted average of 5.30/10. The site's general consensus is: "Though it features some extravagant and entertaining moments, The Other Boleyn Girl feels more like a soap opera than historical drama." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 50 out of 100, based on 34 reviews.
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film "more slog than romp" and an "oddly plotted and frantically paced pastiche." She added, "The film is both underwritten and overedited. Many of the scenes seem to have been whittled down to the nub, which at times turns it into a succession of wordless gestures and poses. Given the generally risible dialogue, this isn’t a bad thing."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "This in an enjoyable movie with an entertaining angle on a hard-to-resist period of history ... Portman's performance, which shows a range and depth unlike anything she's done before, is the No. 1 element that tips The Other Boleyn Girl in the direction of a recommendation ... [She] won't get the credit she deserves for this, simply because the movie isn't substantial enough to warrant proper attention."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone stated, "The film moves in frustrating herks and jerks. What works is the combustible teaming of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, who give the Boleyn hotties a tough core of intelligence and wit, swinging the film's sixteenth-century protofeminist issues handily into this one."
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film three out of five stars, describing it as a "flashy, silly, undeniably entertaining Tudor romp" and adding, "It is absurd yet enjoyable, and playing fast and loose with English history is a refreshing alternative to slow and tight solemnity; the effect is genial, even mildly subversive ... It is ridiculous, but imagined with humour and gusto: a very diverting gallop through the heritage landscape."
Sukhdev Sandhu of The Telegraph said, "This is a film for people who prefer their costume dramas to gallop along at a merry old pace rather than get bogged down in historical detail ... Mining relatively familiar material here, and dramatising highly dubious scenarios, [Peter Morgan] is unable to make the set-pieces seem revelatory or tart ... In the end, The Other Boleyn Girl is more anodyne than it has any right to be. It can't decide whether to be serious or comic. It promises an erotic charge that it never carries off, inducing dismissive laughs from the audience for its soft-focus love scenes soundtracked by swooning violins. It is tasteful, but unappetising."
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-  Archived 2011-02-19 at the Wayback Machine Ely cathedral was a major location for the film
- von Tunzelmann, Alex (6 August 2008). "The Other Boleyn Girl: Hollyoaks in fancy dress". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
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