The Other, More Boring Boleyn Girl

I watched the movie The Other Boleyn Girl on TV last night.  It tries to portray Anne Boleyn as a manipulative, scheming character, but the problem is she’s actually one of the most sympathetic character in the movie.  I think the overall point was about how terrible and unfair the aristocratic system of politics-by-who-marries-whom,  but since Anne is a prominent victim of that, it’s odd to make her an unlikeable character.

The performances were quite good, but the characters felt empty, especially the personality-free Mary Boleyn.  My thought was “well, no wonder she’s ‘the other Boleyn girl’–she’s not as interesting! So, why do we care about her again?”

I’ll admit that I’ve never been terribly gripped by the that period in history–not sure why.  I think it’s because almost every man seems to have been named “Henry” or “Thomas”, which makes things hard to follow.  You have Henry the VIII, who had issues with the Church, and because of it was at odds with Sir Thomas More, and then you have Henry II, who also had issues with the Church and because of it was at odds with Thomas Becket.  It’s easy to get confused.

Anyway, back to the this movie.  It’s weird because on the one hand I guess it’s for people who find that period in history romantic or something, but simultaneously the point of the movie seems to be that it was a terrible time, when everybody had to do bad things to get ahead.  It was a movie for people who like “Merrie Olde England”, only it condemns that as a brutal period.

It doesn’t examine any of the characters in depth, the way, say A Man for All Seasons does with Sir Thomas More.  It’s just an empty period costume drama. (Speaking of costumes–what is up with these shoulder pads?) It’s based on a book by Philippa Gregory, which I have not read but which apparently has issues with historical accuracy.


  1. You forget I was a history teacher so don’t get me started….
    Henry II’s problems with the church laid the groundwork for the shit that hits the fan with #8. He passed a law called Primanire making it a crime to say anyone has more authority in England than the King. It is this law that Thomas Cromwell uses to force the clergy to agree to the divorce leading to the downfall of Wolsey and Moore.
    There is so much emphasis on lusty H8 because of the rift with the Pope over the divorce from Catherine of Aragon that is still in play today. The Anglo-Hispanic culture war started with this split. Relying on Parliament to grant the divorce begins the rise of parliament over the monarchy leading to a constitutional monarchy which is little more than cutting ribbons and throwing fancy weddings.
    The abuses of the crown used for the next hundred years result in Charles I being beheaded in the English Civil War and James II being deposed in the Glorious Revolution, all of these hic cups splashed over onto American shores leading up to our own revolution.
    I agree that particular movie was a waste of time and money especially for anyone who actually bought a ticket and watched it in the cinema. Glenda Jackson’s BBC Elizabeth R mini-series, Showtime’s The Tudors. Anne of the Thousand Days, Mary Queen of Scots done by Hal Wallace in the 70’s, you’ve mentioned A Man for all Seasons, the movie with Paul Schofield is great, but TNT’s version with Charleton Heston is closer to the stage play giving more insight to the time period. Need I mention that Cardinal Wolsey is one of the players in this time period I have studied and written about at length? He is the perfect example of a man of a long list of successes and accomplishments, but it his failures that changed history: He failed to get Henry elected Holy Roman Emperor, Failed to be elected Pope, and failed at delivering the divorce. If he had succeeded at just one of those issues history would have been very different.

    1. I didn’t forget you were a history teacher–in fact, I was hoping you would do just what you did, and provide the historical background to make up for my ignorance. Thanks very much for this comment.

      And yes, I need to see the Heston version of “Man for All Seasons”. It would be very interesting to compare and contrast. By the way, have you ever seen the movie “Lion in Winter” about Henry II?

  2. Many times. Great cast, great lines. Based on the Plantagenet books by Thomas B. Costaine.
    Hal Wallace also did Becket with Peter O’Toole playing Henry and Richard Burton as Becket. A little weak on the treatment of Queen Maude, Henry’s mother and Eleanor of Aquitaine, but overall a great movie. The four book set of The Plantagenet’s is a must read for anyone who likes this time period.

  3. Since historical epics are all 3 1/2 hours or longer you need a lot of time to get through them. I’ve enjoyed the HBO, Showtime series where they can explore history in more detail. They get carried away with the F word which wasn’t even around for most of this time period, but they do like showing skin and I’m all for that.

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