Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Anne Boleyn was never The Other Boleyn Girl

Warning* The links I have put in here don't lead you back to this page. Why, I don't know. I'm not an HTML expert, but I'm working on it. Just wanted to let you know...
I was going to write a long and involved review, where I, the leading scholar of all things Anne Boleyn, gave you the lowdown on how it really happened. But then I did a little Googling to see what I might link to, in terms of extended reading on the subject, and I was more than a little dismayed to find there are other Anne Boleyn experts out there!! Egads, the sanctuary has been breached! Begone foul impersonators! "After a time (or two or three)", I calmed down, but it did kind of raise a road block for me, in terms of how I wanted to write this post. I wanted to give you both the real story and the film version side by side, but then I had a conversation with Ms. Q, who had just gotten back from Las Vegas and was catching up on the blog. She did spit her coffee when she read this, but she also wanted to know how The Other Boleyn Girl was. So I told her:

Me: "Well, I knew they were going to get it wrong before I went, and they did. But at least they didn't get it as wrong as the damn book did, and some of the scenes I had issue with I found precedent for in either history, or previous films to support it. For example: a rape scene with Henry VIII and Anne as their first sexual encounter; while it is completely untrue and the only time it might have occurred in their relationship would have been near the end of it, the precedent for it on film was established in the film Henry VIII, which cast Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn. So the story was far enough from the truth to be annoying to me, but if you weren't schooled in the history it might not bother you."

Ms. Q: "So how were the actors? How was Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn? And Scarlett Johannson as Mary?

Me: "Natalie Portman was the bright spot in this film. I went to see this movie because she was cast as Anne and she not only delivered a performance that surpassed everyone else's, but her skill as an actress gave the character depth where the script didn't necessarily contain it. The book portrayed Anne as the ringleader of the whole Howard/Boleyn faction (do you need me to tell you this is effing FALSE?) but I never got that sense from Natalie's Anne. I did get the sense of her being smart, rebellious, and vengeance driven, even though the source of her vengeance was Henry in the film, and NOT Cardinal Wolsey, as it truly was. In my opinion, Natalie Portman held that film together.

Scarlett Johannson - well let me just say that girl's lips are distractingly huge! She was the exact same character that she played in The Girl With The Pearl Earring, more or less. In all fairness, I don't think she was expected to play Mary Boleyn any other way. If you consider the fact that Mary wasn't exactly the sharpest stick in the bunch, it was a fairly true depiction of her."

Ms. Q: "Are you saying that the elevator doesn't go to the top floor? That the lights are on, but nobody's home? That she's a few french fries short of a Happy Meal?" But seriously, aside from the pea-brained part of Mary, what about the other characters? Did you like any of them?"

Me: "That's what I'm saying girl! That and - that girl has some huge MF lips! They had to shoot this film in 70mm just to fit other people into the frame with her lips! Sorry - where was I? Oh, the casting. I didn't like the casting of both Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (wifey #1). Henry is iconically known from his Holbein portrait as being a massive man, in both height and breadth, as well as being red headed and blue eyed to boot. He was played by Eric Bana, who is a small, dark haired man with brown eyes. You tell me what happened there. Catherine of Aragon was also miscast as slender, with dark hair and eyes. With a wife this good looking, why is Henry cheating? Catherine was blond, blue-eyed and thick though the middle, from constant pregnancies. These might seem little points, but when the names of well-known historical figures are attached to a storyline, I think most of us expect them to at least look like they should, whatever else is done."

Ms. Q: "Wow, you're a tough crowd to please. So you didn't like anyone?"

Me: "I did like the casting of Mark Rylance as Thomas Boleyn (Anne's father), and David Morissey as Thomas Howard (Anne's uncle). They both resembled their characters reasonably, and their performances gave us insight into their motivations. The part of the mother was played by Kristen Scott Thomas and she brought dimensions to the character that I enjoyed, but I don't think her character was ever really that conscientious about the state of her children. She was a Howard, for crying out loud - they were bred for intrigue!"

Ms. Q: "So how did the film look? What were the costumes like?"

Me: "The sets created for the film blended well with the location shots, so the overall look of the film was fine. It didn't have the incredible cinematography that the Elizabeth films had, but it didn't jar the eye or interrupt the story. The costumes were another matter. There were a few dresses that looked okay, like the green one Natalie wears on the poster, but a lot of the dresses were NOT done right, in both line, construction, and fabric choices. Not one of the dresses had a proper deep vee that the farthingale type of corset would have produced, and the tight sleeves with little puffs were more Baroque than Tudor or Renaissance. There were few dresses that showed the dark heavy overdress and long, wide sleeve that is the Tudor style, and many of the bright and damasked fabrics felt out of period as well. There was also a lot of hair showing on these girls; Tudor women kept their hair covered under either a French or Gable style hood (Examples of both are shown on the two portraits of Anne Boleyn).

All in all, it was an okay film, if you knew nothing of the period or the story. For anyone who loves that period its going to be a struggle to keep your mouth shut during the film. It might be best to either Netflix it or go in with a massive bucket of popcorn, so there's something to stuff in your mouth when the protests arise."


thailandchani said...

Very interesting! I read the book - wasn't overly impressed because it seemed to water down a lot of the politics of the time, a lot of the relationships and the reasons behind them.

Julie Pippert said...

I loved how you provided your insight and take on this!

flutter said...

holy balls, girl. You had something to say about this!

Anonymous said...

They should have put Clive Owen in the movie!! Why?...Because he should be in every movie!!! Ms. Q

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Ms. Q is right on the money with that one. Not that he has red hair or anything,but damn, at least there would be eye candy.

As you know, it wasn't one of my favorite films, but I can always be bought with sushi.

Excellent review. Perhaps you should mail that off to the idion at the N&O who usually reviews movies.

FairiesNest said...

...Or you can do what we did and go when no one else is there and make so many snide comments that the usher starts laughing out loud! I have to say that I didn't mind the costumes so much, probably because my perspective is more about the look and less the accuracy, but I so agree with the Henry objection, Gads what were they thinking? And Natalie was fabulous!

Madge said...

i've been meaning to read the book... thanks for the review!

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

I read the book too and a another by that author. I've not been impressed, so I stopped after those two I was so unimpressed.

Hollywood never tells it like it is. Like Erin Brockovitch...totally NOT what it is like in the real legal word. I was very disappointed.

bandick said...

I haven't seen the movie, but did you see the footage of Scarlett and Natalie on the "Today" show? Scarlett was so overwhelmed by the compliments being paid to her by Natalie that she looked like she was trying really hard to hold herself back from climbing on her for a little make-out session...which reminded me of Sarah Brown (www.queserasera.com) writing about her secret urges to inappropriately kiss people.

Revenant said...

Yep, I've been eying this one. Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

Eric Bana isn't small - he is over 6' 2", but of course in every other respect he does not look anything like Henry VIII (going by the paintings).

The film, TOBG, was always up against it, given the idiotic book it was based on. I actually enjoyed the film, probably due to having very low expectations.

I didn't think NP made a very good Anne, but that may not have been her fault. More likely the director's and the poor script's faults. I though SJ did quite well, but then little is known about the real Mary. SJ had an easier role to play than NP or EB (also not my idea of Henry VIII, but he was very easy on the eyes).

jennifer h said...

I think I'll do what anonymous said, and just watch it with low expectations. I kind of have a girl crush on Scarlett Johannson anyway.

maggie, dammit said...

I'm speechless.

I didn't know any one person knew so much about one thing. This took me ten minutes to read. I am ridiculously impressed.