REEL CRITIC:

Audiences never seem to tire of hearing of King Henry VIII and all of the palace intrigue regarding the first two of his six wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Films of the past come to mind, especially “Anne of the Thousand Days,” the Oscar winner of 1969 that starred Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold and held the film world abuzz for quite some time.

“The Other Boleyn Girl” isn't quite in that league, but that is not to say this is an ordinary production. On the contrary, I enjoyed it as much for the nice turn on the story as I did for the performances.

This story is unique in that it focuses as much if not more on Mary Boleyn, Anne's elder sister who enthralled the king and became his mistress before Anne finally captured his imagination.Scarlett Johansson does a remarkable job with her role as Mary Boleyn, the less affected sister, the sister who wears her heart on her sleeve and who is uncomfortable with court life. She only wishes to remain in the country with her husband and lead a normal, uncomplicated life.

Her ambitious uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, however, has other plans for her, and he urges Mary to attach herself to King Henry in order to solidify the family position. It is a departure for Johansson, who usually plays a savvy, clever type, to bring the role of sweet Mary to life.

Natalie Portman is Anne, the conniving, hard-boiled sister who, while Mary is “lying in” with a complicated pregnancy, sets out to charm the king and, in her own words, “beguiles” him. It is with her eye on the grand prize then, that Anne becomes queen, and all is well until she cannot produce a male heir and all of the drama between the two sisters comes to naught.

This is a typically ornate production that relies on the usual Hollywood cliches that adorn historical dramas from this time period. With the beautiful costuming, the charming post-Chaucerian syntax and the predictable scene of heavily armed horsemen astride well-groomed steeds that seem to rise majestically from just behind rolling green hills preceded by thunderous hoof beats, audiences are reminded of other productions that have been enjoyed as much as this one.

The screenplay was written by Peter Morgan of “The Queen” fame, and while the subject matter here isn't quite as timely and memorable to modern audiences as “The Queen” was, this timeless story is always welcomed by audiences of any era. The story of Henry VIII and the court intrigue surrounding his many wives will never fall out of fashion. It is the soap opera of the ages.

Rated PG-13, “The Other Boleyn Girl” runs for one hour and 54 minutes and is playing citywide.


?JEFF KLEMZAK of La Crescenta is a movie buff.

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