Holy fuckballs! Going in to The Other Boleyn Girl, I figured that it was going to be campy, but I didn't expect it to be this deliciously campy. I believe the only way to describe this film is to call it a fierce hot-mess tranny...but in a good way.
Confused? Don't be, it will all make sense eventually.
The Other Boleyn Girl is so over the top it makes Elizabeth: The Golden Age look as serious as Schindler's List. The reason that The Other Boleyn Girl is a better film, however, is because it's not really trying for dramatic realism- director Justin Chadwick knows it's camp and accepts it. The direction isn't self-conscious and there's no grand staging to make everything seem more important than it really is. It's a perfectly inspired choice on Chadwick's part and a reason that The Other Boleyn Girl works as well as it does.
Anyone who's seen the trailer knows that The Other Boleyn Girl is supposed to be a dramatic showdown between Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Want to know who the winner is? Portman, by a mile. Maybe it's because she has the infinitely more interesting role compared to ScarJo, but Portman just runs away with this film. Where a normal actress would add no emphasis, she tosses off bitchy one-liners like no one's business and commands the screen without resorting to Blanchett-esque howling (no bitches wear her collar here). While Johansson is definitely fetching and you can see why Henry falls for her, she has done better work than in here. She's curiously vacant and, after The Black Dahlia and The Prestige, maybe that's how she always acts and I'm just now noticing. As for the other women, they excel in the middling parts they are given. Kristin Scott Thomas plays the mother of the Boleyn sisters and she makes sure her voice is heard while the men in her life decide the future of the girls. She's the voice of reason, even though no one really wants to hear what she says. Ana Torrent, as the first queen Catherine of Aragon, really only has three scenes to work with, but she's divalicious in all of them with out going way over the top. Her first scene where she praises ScarJo's awful singing with that sarcastic sneer and thinly veiled hatred. And the second scene where she approaches Portman and ScarJo with "Well, if it isn't the Boleyn Whores" was priceless. This woman was a hoot and is an early contender for my 2008 Diva Cup Award for Best Diva.
There's this one scene towards the end of the film that I'm sure either makes or breaks the film for some people, but it's so out there and ballsy that it made me love this film even more. I don't know if it's technically a spoiler or not, but I'm simply going to refer to it as "The Queen Needs a Lover." If you've seen it, I hope you know what I'm talking about. It's the most alternately horrifying/hilarious scene I've seen since Hitchcock and the most outrageous thing I've ever seen in a PG-13 rated movie. Chadwick uses the static close-up to infinite effect, as the audience's reaction goes from "Who is she thinking about using?" to "No, they can't be..." to "Oh no they didn't!" to "Oh my God, they went there!".
If you're looking for a historically accurate representation of Henry VII England, avoid this movie and pick up something like A Man For All Seasons. But, if you're looking for a campy good time, with two beautiful females duking it out, check out The Other Boleyn Girl and, trust me, you won't be disappointed.
My Rating: *** 1/2