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The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/10/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/7/2008

Ah, the historical drama -- these films must really walk a fine line. If they lean to hard on the drama and disregard the history, the audience will wonder why the filmmakers bothered to do a period piece. (And on that note, why anyone would undertake the challenges involved in a period piece is beyond me.) Conversely, if the film contains more history than drama, it may feel like a documentary. Few films can walk this film as well as The Other Boleyn Girl. This film will educate those looking for a period piece, and enthrall the audience who want a character-driven drama.

The Other Boleyn Girl is set in the 16th Century early in the reign of Henry VIII (Eric Bana). We learn early on that despite some attempts, Henry and his wife, Katherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), have been unable to have a son. We then meet the Boleyn family. Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) is married to Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas). Her brother is Thomas Howard (David Morrissey), Duke of Norfolk. Thomas and Elizabeth have two daughters, Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne (Natalie Portman) -- Mary has recently married Henry Percy (Oliver Coleman). Hearing of Henry VIII's desire for a son, Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Howard hatch a plan. Howard will use his connections to have the King visit the Boleyn household. They will then introduce him to Anne, she will become his mistress, and she will bear him a son. The plan begins smoothly, has Henry accepts the invitation, but when he meets Mary, he is smitten with her, and decides to take her back to his home. The Boleyn's are allowed to accompany, but they feel that the plan has gone awry. However, after some time in France, Anne visits the King's castle and Henry finds her bewitching. Suddenly, the two sisters are fighting for the affection of the King of England.

The Other Boleyn Girl works because it has one goal in mind; tell a good story. The film does an excellent job of introducing the characters and their situations. From there, we watch as these people become more and more enmeshed in a web of deceit and adultery. But, the movie doesn't judge. We see the good and bad in each of these people and our opinions of each character is constantly shifting -- well, except maybe for Anne, who comes across as quite conniving throughout the movie. The story contains some nice twists and turns, and while most will know Anne's fate, the outcome for the remaining characters is very interesting to watch.

The movie also wins points for being a period piece, but not getting bogged down in being a historical drama. At no point does the story stop so that the conditions of the day can be explained. These come through naturally in the story. We learn that women were only valuable if they could be married to someone wealthy and that many families gained prominence not through hard work, but through marriage. We also see that promiscuity was acceptable for the king and that the throne bested any other contracts or arrangements. This was truly a bleak time for females, and the way in which Anne and Mary are treated really drives the film.

I usually have little time for either historical dramas or period pieces, but I found The Other Boleyn Girl to be quite entertaining. The acting is top-notch here, with both Johansson and Portman bringing a needed level of believability to the film. The locations and sets are quite good, but again, don't draw attention to themselves. Some may find that the story plays like a soap opera, but the constant intrigue keeps the story moving along at a nice pace. The Other Boleyn Girl could have easily been stuffy and boring, but it proves to be colorful and charming. You won't lose your head over it, but it's certainly worth seeing.

The Other Boleyn Girl creates emotional turmoil on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was shot on HD and the transfer looks very good. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors, which are very important to the story, look great here, especially dark, deep tones. The image is never overly dark or bright. I noted some mild video noise in some shots, but otherwise the transfer is stable. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven drama, we don't get a life-changing home theater experience here, but the crowd scenes provide some good stereo and surround effects, and hoof-beats are assisted by the subwoofer.

The Other Boleyn Girl DVD features several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Justin Chadwick. He speaks at length throughout the film and most of his comments are scene-specific. He does a good job of touching on different subjects. He talks about the history behind the film, the actors, the locations, and some technical aspects. This isn't the most exciting commentary ever, but it's informative. The DVD contains twelve DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES, which run about 23 minutes. Many of these fall squarely into the "extended" scene category, as they feature scenes from the movie with only a few additional seconds. With the deleted scenes, we learn more about the fate of Mary's husband and see another of Ann's schemes. "Members of the Court: Character Biographies" (17 minutes) examines six of the main characters from the film. Through comments from historical experts and cast & crew of the film, we learn facts beyond the film. (Every movie based on true events should have this.) "To Be a Lady" (10 minutes) examines the world of females during the era of the film, showing what life was like in a male-dominated society. "Translating History to Screen" (10 minutes) has comments from Phillipa Gregory and others who discuss the challenge of adapting the book for a film. In "Camera Tests" (2 minutes) Chadwick describes experiments to decide if HD cameras would work on the film.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has also brought The Other Boleyn Girl to Blu-ray Disc. The film is again letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. As sharp as the DVD version was, the image is even better looking here. The picture is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain at all. The colors are incredibly rich and true, most notably the green of Ann's attire, and the lush fields. Landscapes shows show a nice depth and close-ups reveal a high level of detail. Fleshtones look realistic and the brightness of the image is well-balanced. I noted no artifacting or noise here. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. Again, this film doesn't offer an overwhelming aural experience, but the dialogue is always clear and audible. The stereo effects in the court scenes are very good and the dance number offers nice surround. The horses in the hunting party provide a nice amount of bass.

The Blu-ray Disc offers the same extras as the DVD, plus "Inside the Court". This allows the viewer to watch the film inside of a small frame which is surrounded by character biographies and other facts. As one often wonders "Is this true?" while watching the movie, this track is a nice bonus.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long