Where's the Passion? Period Piece Lacks the Oomph of the Epic Drama It Tries to Be

Article excerpt

Byline: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic


"The Other Boleyn Girl"

* * 1/2

The details

Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jim Sturgess.

Directed by: Justin Chadwick

Other: A Columbia Pictures release. Rated PG-13 (sexual situations, violence). 120 minutes.

In the hands of British television director Justin Chadwick, "The Other Boleyn Girl" feels like a poshly budgeted Masterpiece Theatre version of a grand Hollywood historical epic.

The costumes entrance. The set designs amaze. The British accents sound impeccable (coming from American and Australian lips). Nonetheless, Chadwick's period drama sorely lacks the passion, scope and density of the full-blown epic it clearly intends to be.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" re-tells the infamous story of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, a tale pulsing with illicit affairs, bastard children, rape, rebellious sacrilege, treachery, beheadings and a hint of incest.

With the right treatment, it could easily rank with the most visceral of Shakespearean stage plays. Chadwick's treatment merely goes to war with itself as a tawdry, R-rated bodice-ripper struggling to break the constraints of a PG-13 straitjacket.

Anne (Natalie Portman) and her married sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) have their relationship tested when their weak, greedy father (Jim Sturgess) agrees to pimp Anne out to the king.

Anne's uncle, The Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), senses that King Henry (Eric Bana) is so desperate to have a male heir that he may be willing to sow the royal seed in an extramarital field.

He convinces Anne she can benefit herself and the whole family if she makes herself available to the king when he visits. She does, but Henry kicks her to the curb when he sees the very married Mary, who wants no part of violating her marriage vows.

Then her own mealy-mouthed husband (Benedict Cumberbatch) reluctantly throws in with the Duke and Dad. (This is definitely not a pro-male movie on any level. …