Its 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 Gregorys historical concept of the two rival sisters who both bedded Englands King Henry VIII.
When Henrys first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), was unable to bear him a heir, the Kings (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 Queens 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.