“The Other Boleyn Girl” – Susan Granger reviews

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It’s not really fair to compare a film adaptation with its novel source. While a novel can sprawl over hundreds of pages, a movie generally wraps in about two hours. But this dull mediocrity is an insult to Philippa Gregory’s historical concept of the two rival sisters who both bedded England’s King Henry VIII.

When Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), was unable to bear him a heir, the King’s (Eric Bana) attention was drawn to the nubile daughters of Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas). Feisty, flirtatious Anne (Natalie Portman) was the obvious choice since she was the elder and, besides, her younger sister Mary (Scarlett Johanson) was already married to a local merchant. But Henry preferred dutiful Mary, dispatching her to serve as his Queen’s lady-in-waiting. Soon Mary became pregnant but her child, alas, was a bastard. Then Anne, having returned from exile in the French court, caught his eye. But she held out for marriage. So Henry Tudor divorced Catherine, abandoned Mary, ditched Roman Catholicism and started his own Church of England. Eventually, Anne had a daughter – who became Elizabeth I – but Anne was beheaded so that Henry could marry Jane Seymour.

Good story, eh? Not the way that screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) and former TV director Justin Chadwick present it. Underwritten to the point of sketchiness, you need to understand British history for any of it to make much sense. Neither sensual nor sexy, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johanson seem to be groping for subtlety in their characterizations – while Eric Bana just gropes. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Other Boleyn Girl” is a clumsy, clunky 4, totally lacking in passion and cohesion.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.