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The Other Boleyn Girl
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this historical romance/drama deals with mature themes like adultery, betrayal, and even incest. Still, there's a balance here: Characters who appear to value material comforts and power get their comeuppance, while those who display humility and conduct themselves with an inner compass appear to be spared. Although there are a number of implied sex acts and much discussion of adultery, surprisingly little is actually shown.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on the best-selling novel by Philippa Gregory, THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL is a not-so-faithful retelling of how the rivalry between sisters Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) changed the course of history. Encouraged by her ambitious uncle and eager-to-please father, Anne accepts her mission to become King Henry VIII's (Eric Bana) mistress and bear him a son -- a feat that has escaped the reigning queen. Instead, the monarch falls for Anne's sister, Mary; soon, Anne is relegated to second-fiddle status. But when Mary falls out of Henry's favor, Anne again takes on her seductive task. And time away from the king has made her a shrewd girl: Thirsting for revenge, she flirts with Henry but withholds sex -- driving him mad with desire -- and demands that he annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and make her his queen. (She's a Rules girl playing a high-stakes game.) His acquiescence means excommunication from the Catholic Church, which causes a huge uproar. And if Anne can't provide the promised male heir, it may well cost her her life.
Is it any good?
A lushly photographed, beautifully costumed feast for the eyes, The Other Boleyn Girl reveals the machinations of power-hungry men and women in the Tudor court. (It's a popular subject; Showtime has dedicated an entire TV series to it.). The cast is superb, the set design exact. Still, history buffs are bound to wince at the liberties the film takes with the facts, as well as how it speeds through huge swaths of time (the first half-hour feels particularly herky-jerky). And though screenwriter Peter Morgan's script bears the mark of a true professional -- he also wrote Helen Mirren's The Queen -- the dialogue is burdened in spots by too much explication.
But despite its flaws, the film resonates, thanks to its stars. Johansson one-ups her performance in Girl with a Pearl Earring, which proved she had a face for period pieces, and turns in a surprisingly nuanced performance. And Portman proves she's not just a good girl by attacking her villainess role in earnest; she's conniving, manipulative, and dedicated to ambition at any cost. But in the end, she's all too human, especially when her happiness is denied just as easily as the king's is indulged.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the accuracy of movies based on actual events. Do you think most historical movies are true to what actually happened? How can you find out? If a film does fudge the historical facts, how do you feel about that as a viewer? In general, is history a good source of inspiration? Families can also discuss the relationship between Anne and Mary. Why did two seemingly close sisters drift apart? Are they depicted as caricatures -- one bad, one good -- or are they fully formed characters?
- In theaters: February 28, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2008
- Cast: Eric Bana, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson
- Director: Justin Chadwick
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements, sexual content and some violent images.
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