Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Kristin Scott Tomas, David Morrissey, Ana Torrent

"The only thing that could come between these sisters ... is a kingdom"

Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

I never read the book by Philippa Gregory but actually liked the movie! It is filled with drama, intrigue, romantic dalliances, great costumes and enough pageantry to keep you entertained for almost 2 hours.

Eric Bana's brooding, forceful yet subtle role as Henry VIII was believable. For such a hated or rather controversial historical figure, he was almost likable (in certain scenes) in this film. Well I meant King Henry the 8th not Eric Bana himself. Although what is there NOT to like about Eric Bana, right? I've always had the impression that King Henry the 8th was this rotund, balding figure. So to watch Eric Bana portray him as an multi-faceted King, dressed to the nines in loud gaudy costumes was refreshing. The wardrobe people geared him in heavy fabric with stuffy sleeves to give the thin lean actor a more meaty appearance. In some scenes, it worked but basically you could still notice how slim he really was. Stuffy costumes aside, Eric Bana was convincing enough as the King desperate to produce a male heir. His mad obsession to get Anne Boleyn despite her reluctance gave me chills. He was deceptive, cruel and menacing in some scenes then charmingly tender in the next frame. It all contributed to the dramatic effect of the film.

Scarlett Johansson who for some reason has never struck me as a good actress impressed me with her 'mousy' portrayal of the 'weaker' Boleyn sister. Even in the manner of her attire, she was clearly the more subdued sister, preferring to wear clothes which didn't draw too much attention. All Mary wanted was a simple life in the country with her husband. But once the King was besotted with her unassuming presence, she willingly did what was expected of her for the sake of her family's advancement in society. So although we sense a certain hesitation in her part, once she assumed her task, she did it with conviction. Eventually she did have *it* in her after all. Her slow transformation from a dormant sister to a woman who would do anything to protect her child and her sister was poignant.

On the other hand, Anne Boleyn from the get go was the more flamboyant, more educated and clearly more ambitious one. Her fiery personality was manifested in her colorful attires of loud colors like green and red. Her piercing tongue could beguile any man with her command of poetry. Yet at the same time, her educated persona worked against her because during that era, women were supposed to be seen and not heard like some decorative item on a Christmas tree. Natalie Portman gave a very good performance as the ill fated Queen. Her eloquence in delivering her sometimes tongue twisting dialogue was commendable. Despite being sandaled down with too many layers of clothing for her tiny frame, she still stood out and gave it her all. She has always been one of my fave actresses and she didn't disappoint me in this film.

The film has been maligned by some sectors for not being historically accurate. It didn't offer much explanation behind the events which helped shaped an entire nation. Such as the establishment of the Church of England, what happened to other significant characters like William Carey and the former Queen Catherine of Aragon. Instead it concentrated on the sibling rivalry of the two Boleyn sisters for the affection of one man, the King. But it was well executed with gripping dramatic moments, great costumes, good cinematography and clear dialogue. It was a story worth telling from the perspective of two sisters who although quite different in their personalities still managed to bring down an entire nation to its knees with both awe and contempt. Both of them ambitious in their own right but choosing different methods to attain their goals.

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