The Other Boleyn Girl, based on the novel by Philippa Gregory
“It’s good to be the king” is a line in the hilarious, if often outrageous comedy History of the World by the witty Mel Brooks.
Only in the age of #MeToo, King Henry Tudor is the epitome of the bully, sexual predator, killer and rapist.
Evidently, standards were so different centuries ago, but one could argue that even in 2017, in Hollywood, they had a modern day equivalent called Weinstein, and then after he was brought to the stage, others showed up, from Spacey to ex-president Bush.
The saga of Henry VIII and his wives is familiar, it has been adapted for the small and big screen multiple times and what this feature brings forward is different, if criticized and ultimately rejected by many critics, given the Metascore of only 50 on IMDB and chronicles that dismiss the novelty as inaccurate and exaggerated.
The cast of this film is resplendent, with Natalie Portman in the leading role of Anne, The Other Boleyn Girl, although one could argue that the “other” is in fact the lesser known, only discovered or perhaps invented by Philippa Gregory, Mary, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, first abused by the king, played by Eric Bana.
Mark Rylance, the protagonist in a very eulogized series about the same subject, Wolf Hall, has the role of sir Thomas Boleyn, married to Lady Elizabeth aka Kristin Scott Thomas, mother of George aka Jim Sturgess and mother in law to William Carey, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch…Eddie Redmayne also has a role in this excellent, if historically inaccurate- maybe- film.
Thomas Boleyn wants to benefit from a potential penchant that King Henry VIII might have for his daughter, Anne, given that his majesty is frustrated with the fact that his current consort, Queen Katherine of Aragon has not given him a male heir to throne, successor that the royal figure mistakenly considers paramount for the stability, greatness of the kingdom, considering that Elizabeth I would actually rule over such a glorious nation.
The house of Boleyn awaits for the special event that will have the king visiting for a hunting party, during which he is supposed to, or the hosts- the father actually- wish to get close to Anne, who climbs on top of a horse, to the surprise of his majesty who expects a woman to have a companion to help her when riding, but the forward thinking, emancipated for the age Anne explains that this is a new saddle and she will be alright on her own.
The hunting party is a disaster for the plans that Thomas Boleyn had made, since the king falls from his horse and not close encounter and romance ensued, the royal highness is cared for in the first instances by the sister, Mary, who enchants the injured man and therefore he decides to promote her husband to the elite Royal Crown Council, include Mary in the entourage of queen Kathrine, to the dismay of Anne, who had wanted to get the attention and eventually be married to a duke.
Father Boleyn considers Anne not as simple as Mary, the latter is not at all thrilled by the move to London, but her husband understands the benefits and says nothing to stop his wife from becoming the mistress of the king, perhaps there was nothing he could do and if he tried, he might have been executed.
Mary becomes pregnant, her sister declaring that this is a sorry state, for the child would be a bastard and nothing more and when the date of birth is approaching, the room where the expecting Boleyn Girl is sealed, windows are closed with bars and she is isolated form the king, who ultimately loses interest in the mother of his child.
Anne enters a forbidden relationship, decides to marry in secret, has sex with the man she calls her husband only to be viciously scolded and repudiated for placing the fortune of all the family in jeopardy with her recklessness, she is sent to France, returns and seduces the king with her description of the weak man on the throne of France and her description of a real man, king who needs to have compassion, show generosity.
Henry VIII becomes infatuated or maybe just aroused and chases Anne around the palace, the determined woman refuses and points out to her sister, the queen and the fact that she does not want the same fate and she would give in and make love only once she becomes a legitimate partner, all while Mary is appalled by her rival and sibling and feels she has been betrayed, the sisters accusing each other of the same wrongdoing.
Anne Boleyn proves to be intelligent, and not just in IQ terms, but has the more important Emotional Intelligence, she is brave, has perspective, persistence, vitality, only she does not give birth to the so much wanted boy.
In fact, even before she becomes the queen, if we are to believe this version of events, discounting much of the artistic license involved, Anne is raped by an infuriated king, who accuses her of making him tore the country apart, incrimination that she refutes, explaining that he will become the head of the church and it will increase his power.
Henry VIII ultimately abandons Anne, just as he did with Katherine and consequent wives and alas, he does not resume to ejecting her from the position of queen, but there is a serious accusation of treason and a crime of infidelity, incest is also brought to a court of “justice”, the second wife is accused of sleeping with her brother.
The perspective in this film is that Anne, faced with the terrible fate that can be anticipated, wants her brother to have intercourse, thus hoping a child would be born, who will look like the Boleyn family and if he is a boy, he would represent the saving of Anne…this idea has no fruition though.
Nevertheless, Anne, her brother and others are brought to trial, but as her mother once says, justice is just about anything the king decides and the same royal person again determines treason.
Her destiny and that of other wives of Henry Tudor is tragic and revolting, without even considering that she actually gave birth to one of the greatest, most outstanding, illustrious rulers: Queen Elizabeth I.