By Damarys Ocaña
Anne Boleyn was by far England's most important (non-ruling) queen: She was famously smart and willful and witty enough to talk circles around any man. Through her scandalous marriage to Henry VIII, she instigated England's historic break from the Catholic Church, made and broke political careers and gave birth to Elizabeth, who would be the world's most powerful ruler for 45 years. But if you want that story, you'll have to read a biography. The Other Boleyn Girl is about bodice-ripping sex, cat-fights and melodrama, baby!
Based on the bestselling historical romance of the same name and laying just as fast and loose with the facts, the movie focuses on the rivalry between Anne (Natalie Portman) and her sister Mary, the titular second fiddle (Scarlett Johansson). Both girls have the bad luck to have been born into an ambitious aristocratic family, at a time when men made their fortunes on the backs of women—often literally. Both are whored out to the king (Eric Bana) as mistresses—first the spirited Anne, then the docile Mary, in hopes that Henry, whose Queen Catherine of Aragon has not borne him a male heir, will be "besotted." If one of the girls can give him a son, the whole family will gain influence, titles and land. When Anne falls out of favor, she secretly marries another man and her family banishes her to France for it. But she returns ambitious and sets her eyes on being queen, trampling over her sister, Catherine, and the Pope to do it.
Portman's fiery mix of raw ambition, jealousy and guile, are mostly convincing, though the doe-eyed Johansson is more belieavable as an innocent caught up in a nest of horny, plotting vipers. Both look stunning in the lavish sets and gorgeous costumes, but neither of them are served well by the script or editing, which goes at breakneck speed from their idyllic country childhood to the chopping block where Anne meets her end. Add the mildly amusing The Other Boleyn Girl to the pile of movies and mini-series that haven't done Anne Boleyn's story justice.