Off with her head!

Sigh. The Other Boleyn Girl is a great example of the director’s importance to a movie. It proves that even with a great script and talented actors, a bad director can turn a film into shit.

Sigh. The Other Boleyn Girl is a great example of the director’s importance to a movie.

It proves that even with a great script and talented actors, a bad director can turn a film into shit.

The Other Boleyn Girl, adapted from the historical novel by Philippa Gregory and set in 16th-century Tudor England, follows the stories of aristocrat sisters Anne and Mary Boleyn (Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, respectively).

Anne and Mary are cheerfully manipulated by their ambitious and douche-bag family members to heighten the position of the Boleyn name, so when the queen is unable to give King Henry VIII a son, said family members decide to set the king up with Anne. Anne screws up her seduction, however, and in the process, the king gets the hots for Mary, royally pissing off her sister in the process. Scandal!

What follows could’ve been a really subtle and in-depth portrayal of Old World political backstabbing and sensual intrigue. But thanks to Justin Chadwick’s clumsy first-time directing, the high-stakes drama of The Other Boleyn Girl comes off more like high school drama. Scenes take far too long, give us the same shots, transition awkwardly, and generally flow like chunky peanut butter. Both the politics and sexuality of the film show potential for some amazing moments, but the passion just doesn’t fly.

Portman’s performance–incredible as always–goes a long way in trying to save the movie. Her typical spunk and nuance come out in full form, keeping the drama and action alive in a lot of scenes. But even she can’t elicit depth from her co-stars, whose two-dimensional characters achieve total yawns before the first act is even over. Everybody else moves woodenly around their scenes like children’s toys, and their interactions with one another yield about as much of a response.

This is a total shame. The film has a great script, courtesy of screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland), with some real gems of lines: “See how they get ahead,” the Boleyn mother admonishes one of her daughters, “not by stamping their little feet but by allowing men to believe that they are in charge. That is the art of being a woman.” But the direction doesn’t let moments like these pop when they should, and as such, the words fall flat.

It’s sad to see Scarlett Johansson give such a mediocre performance when she’s pulled off some great ones under better direction (come on, girl, work with Sofia Coppola again!). Here, she spends most of the movie looking like she’s about to cry.

Eric Bana (King Henry) doesn’t really score a whole lot better, choosing to stand around dramatically and shift between looking horny and uncomfortable. “Shit, dude,” he appears to be thinking, “Why’d I sign up for this boring-ass movie? I should’ve pressed for The Hulk Returns instead.”

All that said, there’s some stuff to like here. Visually, it’s gorgeous, owed to some pretty good cinematography–the opening and ending scenes are downright beautiful. Costume choices, too, are absolutely stunning, thanks to veteran costume designer Sandy Powell (Shakespeare In Love, Orlando). If nothing else, The Other Boleyn Girl never stops being fun to look at.

As far as being historically accurate, well, it’s not, at least from my knowledge. But what do you really expect from a Hollywood adaptation of a historical novel?

The Other Boleyn Girl could’ve been a delightful little period piece. Instead, it falls into the kind of banality that discourages people from going to see historical dramas, and will result in an assured black mark on these talented actors’ careers.