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‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ tackles timeless issues

In this image released by Columbia Pictures/Focus Features, Natalie Portman portrays Anne Boleyn, left, and Scarlett Johansson portrays her sister Mary in "The Other Boleyn Girl". (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures/Focus Features, Alex Bailey) ** NO SALES **
AP | Columbia Pictures/Focus Features

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Oh, a cliche for sure, but proof that no matter how many technological advances we may have developed over the generations, the one constant in time is, and always will be, the human condition. When it comes to affairs of the heart and power, some things are just timeless, aren’t they? Toss in a little sibling rivalry, mixed with ambition and competition for the love of one powerful individual, and you get all the ingredients for a high-powered soap opera.

Based on the best-selling book by Philippa Gregory (with a screenplay by Peter Morgan), “The Other Boleyn Girl” is by far this year’s best film adaptation from a novel (which has sold close to 3 million copies), especially in the hands of director Justin Chadwick. This is a big movie for the British director primarily known for his work in television. He had a first-rate cast to work with and, even though most of them had to create an English accent for the part, after a while you forget that there are Yanks on the big screen filling the roles of Brits.

Who would have imagined that the same kind of greed, power, manipulation and love for all the wrong reasons would exist in modern times as it did back in the 16th century? There was more at stake back then, when the female gender was pretty much treated as property, and those with no nobility had to hope that they could marry someone with land and wealth to survive. And even then, there were no guarantees. If one was fortunate to marry into royalty but didn’t produce a male offspring, usually they were beheaded or replaced by one who could. You’ve come a long way, baby.



“The Other Boleyn Girl” is about two sisters vying for the love and attention of the king of England, Henry VIII (Eric Bana). And a married one at that, to Queen Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent).

Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne (Natalie Portman) Boleyn are small-town country girls driven by their relentless father, Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) to upscale the family’s status by using their charm and sexual prowess to win over the king’s heart. OK, so maybe not his heart, but whatever it is works.



But each sister has her own agenda, and one ultimately will be motivated by true love, the other by power. (Sad, too, because love also was a part of her, but she then let the greed take over.) Since having a mistress was commonplace back then, it was only a matter of time to see which one would claim the ultimate prize. Talk about your dysfunctional families. Sir Thomas Boleyn’s wife, Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas) is the only one with a conscience and wants no part of her husband’s plans with their daughters.

And then you have a king who can so easily discard his queen for not bearing him any children to carry on the royal name and position. It’s tough to really root for anyone here, as all involved show their true colors around the agendas they have weaved, but I felt for one of the Boleyn girls. No, the other Boleyn girl.

A lot of liberties are taken with regard to historical accuracies, but then it’s a movie, and who from the 16th century is going to find out? What matters is the character study between the sisters who, even through their lies and misjudgment, still have a bond with one another, as it boils down to family.

” Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on RSN. For past reviews, blogs and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.


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