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An informal movie review...

Okay. This will not be a capsule. In fact, if you really read all it has to offer it might be an interesting history lesson. I am hoping this will become a discussion? First things first, I need to know who to talk to.

Poll #1188699 The Other Boleyn Poll

Pray, have you seen The Other Boleyn Girl?


Did you find it pleasing?

I'm ambivalent.
I'm apathetic.

So I just got back from seeing the film with Faith. We went to ooh-and-ah at the costumes and the ladyfolk. And believe me, the costuming was fantastic. I'll get to the ladyfolk later.

Now, it's been a long time since I've given any thought to the English monarchy or the history thereof. I did get into it a little bit after Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which is a truly enjoyable movie, but I digress. The point is, I didn't go into this movie at all prepared to even try and take in the amount of shit the nobility and ruling family used to pull.

I'm not going to cut this, because I think if you paid any attention to the racier parts of your high school world history class you already know how the movie ends. But I guess if you don't want spoilers, don't read past this point.

Now, for a brief recap... you may recall that Henry VIII, appropriately?, had eight "wives." Six married, two devoted mistresses. It's an easy mnemonic device. The first, and by far longest, marriage was to Katherine of Aragon and lasted 24 years until the Boleyn girls got the divorce/death ball rolling.

Evidently there's some contention about who was the elder sister. Movie says Anne, Wiki says Mary, I don't really care. Long (movie)story short, younger sister gets married first because pops thinks the elder, more ambitious sister can bag a big fish in the realm of nobles. Enter jealousy, stage left.

Now, the premise of the movie is that these sisters were sooooo close. We're talking couldn't pry them apart because they're practically adhered to one another with double-sided tape and epoxy close. That didn't really come across for me at all. We get a scene of the kids frolicking in the English countryside and then they're adults and Mary is getting married and Anne's kind of snarky about it.

At the reception, teh ev0l uncle (I swear, there really is one in every family. Even back in the 1500s.) shows up with this crack plan to get one of his kin to seduce the King of England since he's all upset that his wife can't give him a male heir to the throne. Pops offers up Anne, who thinks it's a bang-up idea.

King shows up, he's smitten, they go on a hunting date, he falls off his horse into a ravine. The modern day equivalent is the scene in Hitch when Will Smith kicks what's-her-face in the...well, face. Epic fail.

Freshly married Mary starts attending to the king's scratches [no lie, his one hand is a little bloodied and the rest of him seems completely undamaged] and his affections start to fall on her.

Soon, Henry calls her and hubby to court. Cue jealousy, again. Virtuous Mary and her hubby don't want to go, but obey 'cause hey. When the king says "come to court"...

On the very first night the king summons Mary and they consummate her mistresshood. I have to write it like that because it was just that boring. Seriously, I never thought I'd say this, but Scarlett Johansson looks like a lousy lay.

Anne goes a little crazygonuts, elopes, gets tattled on, gets exiled to France, learns how to control men, and comes back after her sister gets preggo with the king's child and Henry's eyes start wandering again. Anne arrests his attentions, refuses his affections for the sake of honesty, chastity, her sister, her own political ambitions blah blah... and there are some pretty sexy tension moments. Really, she's always just making a power-play for the throne.

After some scheming, some birthing, some divorce via separating from the Catholic church for a glorified booty call, shit goes down. Henry essentially rapes Anne, which makes for two strikes in the extremely unsatisfying sex scene category. Anne gives birth to a daughter (Elizabeth, see above), miscarries a son, and so begins the downward spiral until her beheading. It's all very dramatic and very well acted, but I'm not necessarily sure that I could care less.

I left the movie trying to figure out who I could blame for the whole mess. I mean, looking back it's easy to tell that Henry was a total douche, and more than a little off his rocker. Separating from the Catholic church in that day and age for the sake of some tail? Come on. Clearly it's his fault he killed Anne, and his obsession for a male heir (even though he friggen had one from Mary) got him into the whole sex octagon... but Anne's ambition got her in her own pickle. And yet, that wouldn't have even happened if teh ev0l uncle hadn't come into the picture with his plan that eventually got him and the following three generations of his family executed for treason. I'm pretty sure Anne would've been content to be a duchess.

The relationships in the film were about as shallow as a puddle. I didn't get any sort of sisterly vibe between Anne and Mary. Honestly, one of my favorite characters was Queen Katherine because she was graceful and Queenly. A few characters just disappeared, others kept coming back for almost no reason. It felt disjointed, like the movie didn't know what it was supposed to be or supposed to focus on.

I also found the transformation of Henry's character kind of jarring. He was so starkly different with Mary than he was with Anne and it seemed very abrupt. I don't think the movie conveyed the passing of time very well.

Also, one thing that really annoyed me with this film was all the angles! Can we not just have a shot with two people talking to each other? Do we need to go back from Anne, over to Mary, back to Anne, over to Mary? Yes, the lighting is gorgeous and it their skin is perfect but give it a rest!

Honestly, by the end of it the whole thing just seemed unnecessary. I still can't figure out why Mary didn't just go on in there and tell Henry that this whole plot was her uncle's doing and plz for to not be killing mah siblings kthx. And/or why Henry wasn't fit as a fiddle when Mary bore him the son he so desperately wanted. Probably because a) he was about as crazy as Caligula and b) it wouldn't make a good movie?

Whatever. I don't know. It doesn't really matter. Thank God for the Magna Carta.

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 16th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC)
I haven't seen the movie, but I have always been enthralled by the Tudors.

But yes. Royalty is pretty much mental. Annnnd, Mary's son wasn't actually an heir as he was a bastard.

PS, Henry had 6 wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived).
May. 16th, 2008 07:21 am (UTC)
Well, when I learned it we counted the mistresses. Mary and the one before her.

So we always did the Henry VIII had Eight. Two weren't ceremonially true, the rest weren't so well to do. Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

That's what happens when you're learning in a school that equates prolonged sexual encounters with implied marriage. Oh fundies...
May. 16th, 2008 07:30 am (UTC)
Ah. We were just taught that royals just generally had a lot of mistresses (and thus all their children were illegitimate) so they didn't matter. It's one of those odd things we're 'taught' really, that it's not just okay/normal for aristocracy to have affairs aplenty, but expected. (Even today. It's sorta cited as one of the reasons the Queen didn't like Diana, as she wouldn't just put up with and shut up about Charles' affair.) Lol @ English toffs.

I know I'm horrifically sad, but the 'divorced' rhyme is one of my fabourite 'historical things'.
May. 16th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
In all honesty, I liked the movie as a separate entity from history and from the book it's based on. Let me just say, the movie changed a whole load of shit from the book. The book started off my tudor phase and I read it as well as every book following it by Philippa Gregory.

I liked Natalie Portman and Scarlett but the movie lacked the fire of these two girls in from the book. But still they were intriguing to watch with Eric Bana as a hot and sexy king.

I can't say it enough: Read the book.
May. 18th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
I'll put it on my list, but it'll probably be awhile. It's hard for me to get excited about it because that movie left me so unimpressed.
May. 17th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
I read the book, and from your account it sounds like the movie is pretty much exactly like it. And as a fictional story it's fine, and as a book I really liked it, at first. But it's not really historically correct in a lot of places, which makes me like it even less now that I've studied up on the Tudor dynasty.
May. 18th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
I think that's often a problem with dramatizations of historical events, because the desire to make it a little more flashy or a little more racy ends up taking away from the fact that there's a really interesting story under all of this that really doesn't need any embellishment.

I think the movie just tried to tackle too much with a too poorly relayed premise. :) Is the relationship between the sisters better in the book? Does Henry go so batshit crazy?
May. 19th, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC)
The book is VERY different and MUCH better all round than yon movie. You do totally need to read it.

The book!sisters are much closer, have a very good understanding of each other, and still are inevitable rivals in all things. It's extremely well relayed there.

And no, Henry is not crazy. He is a creature of the flesh, and not what one would call considerate, but crazy does not come into it.
May. 17th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
Okay, a few things historically here are:
-Separating from the Catholic Church in that day and age was essential to Henry getting's Treasury. Because once you get rid of the Catholic Clergy, you get their stuff, and they had a whooole shitload of gold, that Henry not only wanted for wars, but really kinda needed. Was not just Ann.

-Also, what a lot of people forget about Henry, is that he was literally the first king in his line to actually inherit. Everyone before him within memory had either won the crown like his father Henry VII, or were busy vying for the kingship with another clan in the War of the Roses. The legitimate son thing wasn't just an excuse for Ann's tail, or similar, it was The Way Out Of Civil War. The only way. So, basically, scandalous as it was, Henry VIII was actually trying to play smart with divorcing Katherine of Aragon. Don't blame him.

-And lastly, one of the very clear qualities Henry VIII always embodied was pride. Pride to be The One King Finally, Hurrah, pride that he got the throne instead of his older brother, pride that he could get the girl-even though she'd been married to his brother, blahblahblah. If he'd decided that he wanted Ann by the time Mary gave birth, then how the hell could he have gone right back to her just because it was a boy? He'd be the turnaround boy who was controlled by women and babies. Not okay. He'd shown himself in favor of Ann, so that's the way he had to keep it.

That being said about historical Henry, I have to say that one of the movie elements I found most diverting was that Bana!Henry was basically a giant, Eric-Bana-shaped dick. All his decisions, as they showed them, centered around that, and absolutely nothing else! He's not a character to be confused by, he's a dick that's nice to Mary who pleasures it, and tough on Ann, who neglects it.

Also, a thing that really bothered me was that by the end, they were clearly trying to make the whole thing really about Elizabeth. And while she's great, I can't help feeling it was just a gambit at people knowing something about it, so they should feel more attached, and she didn't really have anything the fuck to do with that story.

Overall, it was just the lack of connecting anybody or anything to themselves, or each other, that made it so dull. Blame the writers and director for that. Historically, blame the system of primogeniture. Seriously, though, did no one else enjoy seeing the king as an Eric Bana shaped cock? I thought that was great.
May. 18th, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
You know, Eric Bana isn't really my type. I mean, I wouldn't kick him out of bed, but he wouldn't be my go-to either.

And why are you trying to absolve that douchebag? Do you secretly like mysogenistic murderers? Is that your kink?

Well, and yes there were several other factors that lead to the breaking with the Catholic Church... but the movie made it seem like it was all for the sake of some extremely unsatisfying tail.

In other news, I love you. And I agree completely that none of the characters connected and the Elizabeth thing was a totally uneccessary afterthought.
May. 18th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
The liking that view of him wasn't so much about Bana (though I do rather like him), as that it's clearly part of a very interesting trend going in his period cinemotography, here. Reducing Henry to his dick was the simplest way to cut down on historical things that needed to be in there to explain his behavior, it put an interesting spin on his Ann marriage (or so I thought), and generally was to my little historian self an ironically funny thing to do to the king who ushered in the non-Italian Renaissance.

And am not trying to absolve him really, I just want him to be condemned for the right things. Being dumb for breaking with the Catholic church is not one of them; nor was being obcessed with having a son. There were also extenuating circumstances for killing Ann, and Katherine Howard did, in fact, very clearly commit adultery. So those things, I'd like people to lay off him for. Being idiot enough to knock up Ann before they were married, not investigating any of his prospective brides closely enough, killing a lot of people along with Ann on slim pretexts, being a jerk to Katherine of Aragon and Mary, stealing Catherine Parr from a noble, leading foolishly executed military campagnes, etc. are things that he deserves criticism for. Should talk about that.

Also, as for the mysogenistic thing, can't really be on about that, can we? Simply wasn't done, wrong time period, completely anachronistic, doesn't make sense to take the whole historical period and traditional views out on single persons, you know.

Also-hallo, m'dear! Am so glad you finally saw that, have been wanting to discuss it. *airkiss*
May. 20th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
OHOH! Forgot to address your last paragraph up there. Henry couldn't be happy with a bastard son because bastards are always and forever in contention, and people WOULD have disagreed over his rights and there would've been civil war. And he couldn't not-kill Ann, no matter whose fault anything was, because of the way the people reacted when he just divorced Katherine of Aragon and she was still alive. Most of them still thought of her as queen and Ann as a whore, Elizabeth's legitimate rights were technically not held up. Henry couldn't afford another huge controversy over who was queen and whose children would inherit the throne. That's why no-could-do. *nods*
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