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Peter Morgan is truly a master of the horribly boring historical drama.  The Last King of Scotland is kinda tolerable, mostly due to the force that is Forest Whitaker.  The Queen, and I won’t back down from this view, is tremendously dull.  And now, The Other Boleyn Girl (based on the prior two titles, I might have laid some money down on this movie having “Prince” in the title).

Few people can make palace intrigue as uninteresting as Morgan does.  Somehow, the way Henry VIII plows through women, the importance of a male heir, the role of women in politics, and the whole creating the Church of England thing are all treated with the gravitas of an episode of Three’s Company.  The movie focuses on the Boleyn family, shifting Eric Bana’s Henry VIII to a supporting role.  Which is a perfectly justifiable decision.  Except that the king still plays such a central role in events, it seems indefensible to me to not grant his character any depth.  Worse, the depiction of Henry VIII is inconsistent (and not mercurial, I’d argue), tending toward any number of character traits.

Now, costume design doesn’t generally impact my thoughts on a movie.  Generally speaking, I could care less what the characters are wearing, and the vast majority of the time, I can’t even remember the costumes twenty minutes after I see a movie.  (A notable exception, obviously, is Paul Rudd donning the O’s jersey in the fantasy baseball draft scene from Knocked Up.)  Anyway, I bring up costume design because given the setting of the movie, the role seduction plays, and the two lovely female leads, I don’t think I was out of line in expecting, you know, some decolletage…a heaving bosom, maybe.  Now, I’m not saying they made Portman and Johansson unattractive, we all know that’s pretty much impossible.  But, I mean, nothing else was going on in the movie.  We couldn’t have had something pretty to look at?

The two female characters aren’t quite as poorly-written as King Henry.  They aren’t necessarily likeable or easy to relate to, but they at least make sense as characters.  And, as probably goes without saying, are made better by Natalie and Scarlett.  Though I’m really disappointed in them for choosing such a lackluster script.  Also, major props for posing the cinematic question: Scarlett or Natalie?  That, by itself, is worth is a star in my book.  Jim Sturgess is in the movie, meaning he’s, to this point, a part of my two least favorite movies of 2008.  So that’s something.

July 2008
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