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Romancing the throne; THE OTHER BOLEYN GLRL (12A, 115 MINS) 5/10 In a nutshell: Glossy bodice ripper as sisters compete for Henry VIII.

FALLING victim to the same excesses as Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl is a beautifully dressed and staged costume drama that has pomp and pageantry in abundance but a paucity of deep emotion.

Screenwriter Peter Morgan, who was nominated for an Oscar for The Queen, fails to delve beneath the glossy surface of Phil-ippa Gregory's novel.

Certainly, the central plot is tantalising - the rivalry between two sisters for the love of King Henry VIII - but apart from Sandy Powell's costumes and John-Paul Kelly's production design, there is little on screen to keep us spellbound for almost two hours.

Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson are cast effectively as the ambitious, ruthless vamp and the naive woman of virtue, whose worlds are turned upside down by their dalliances with the buff monarch, who is governed by his loins rather than his head.

As the narrative gathers pace, the lead actresses have nowhere to go with their performances other than to polar opposites - schemer and saint - as Eric Bana's dithering king waits for Jane Seymour to shoot him a come hither glance, and provide the drama with its unhappy ending.

Like many fathers of the time, Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) is determined to secure his family's power and status through the marriages of his children: a son, George (Jim Sturgess) and two daughters, Anne (Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johannson).

With Mary betrothed, Thomas agrees to help his brother, the Duke of Norfolk (Mor-rissey), secure Anne's place as the king's new mistress.

Unfortunately, King Henry (Eric Bana) favours Mary and she bears him a child, which he hopes will be a male heir to the throne.

With her sister consigned to her bed throughout pregnancy, Anne is called to the court to be ordered to "entertain the king and keep his mind on Mary at all times".

Unfortunately, Anne desires the crown and abiding by the mantra that "love is no value without power and influence", she resolves to seduce the king.

The Other Boleyn Girl sets out its stall as a frothy bodice ripper, including a snarling supporting turn from Morrissey as the power-crazed uncle who would gladly pimp his nieces for king and country.

Yet, in the second hour, the film becomes bogged down with historical detail and consequently has to rush the climax when Anne pays a horrific price for her jealousy.

While Anne ultimately loses her head, we keep ours throughout Justin Chadwick's film.


TUDOR TEMPTRESS: Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn and Natalie Portman as her sister Anne Boleyn.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2008
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