"The Other Boleyn Girl" Blu-ray Review
June 19, 2008 by Zach Demeter
My recollection of Henry Tudor isnít exactly that fresh; itís been a long while since Iíve read about him in my high school text books and even then there were only a few tidbits to go along with an image (where he looked incredibly much more like Dom DeLuise than Eric Bana), Iím pretty sure nothing quite like The Other Boleyn Girl was ever included. Of course Hollywood has been known to take more than a few liberties with films based on historical events, the film let out a drastic amount of historical facts from the film and painted the Tudor/Boleyn relationship as much more one dimensional than they really were. StillÖthatís Hollywood and this film has three of Hollywoodís brightest, each vying for equal amounts of screen time.
After a stillborn birth, Henry Tudor the King of England (Eric Bana), is left looking for someone to bear him a male heir to the throne. In his searches he finds the newlywed Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) but it isnít seconds after she gives birth to his son that Tudor turns his back on her and makes advances towards Maryís sister, Anne (Natalie Portman). Devastated, Mary retreats to the country while Anne continues her advances and power plays that eventually lead to Tudor separating from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a curious film, as it comes off as some kind of Oscar-worthy Lifetime Network film that never quite works. The setting and characters are all wonderfully planned out and executed, but thereís something about the story that ends up being unsatisfying; I wondered how much was really historically accurate and aside from the intense focus on only Tudor and the Boleynís, it was remarkably faithful. So why did the film fail to deliver? Honestly I think itís because by focusing so intently on the three individuals, it often feels like it shortchanges everyone involved; Johansson in particular seems to have her part sliced down the most, although Bana honestly doesnít have much screen time as the great Tudor either. Portman tends to be the focus of it all, although by the time she really begins to shine itís time for her head to be lopped off (I didnít spoil anything there, did I? This story is over five hundred years old, after all.).
Whether it was the Blu-ray transfer that was dazzling me or just the cinematography, the film starts out immediately bedazzling the audience with colors and the pallet remains varied throughout. Despite taking place in a rather dark and dramatic castle for most of the film, the women in the film all boast beautiful dresses that come in every shade and shine brilliantly. The film, shot with the Genesis Camera, definitely shows off a remarkable amount of detail in both the environments but also on the characters clothing, faces and pretty much everything that surrounds them as well.
The film seemed to vary between a generic ďchick flickĒ and then delve into other dramatic genres and that alone, I think, is what caused the film to feel so uneven. You never knew what you were going to be watching from scene to scene and while it was all well acted, it just felt like a roller coaster and not the good kind either. It was an ultimately disappointing film, which in of itself is a disappointment, considering the talent we have on the screen (although aside from our three title leads, I canít say I recognized any other actor in the film). The writers definitely could have done more with the story and fleshed it out to not jump around quite so much; the betrayal that Mary feels due to Anneís taking of Tudor right after she gave birth to his son is barely dwelled upon and Johansson is relegated to do nothing more than bail her sister out when she screws up and repeatedly forgive her.
Then thereís the whole incest thing that happens in the last act of the film; I wasnít totally sure where that scene was going as I hadnít read that in the history books, but it was certainly an uncomfortable and ďWow, really? Thatís screwed upĒ type sequence that didnít end soon enough. I have to draw the line somewhere and apparently thatís where I start. But thatís just another element of the film that makes it feel like a sophisticated soap opera, so if you can accept that thatís what the film will be like going into it, then go for it.
Still even with its disappointments and the easy ability to mock the film, I honestly didnít ever find myself completely bored with it; itís a film that may generate the same feeling as reading a newspaper tabloid: you like the scandals it holds, but feel dirty and disappointed with yourself for reading it. The Other Boleyn girl isnít quite at that level, but itís certainly on its way there. It comes Recommended just for the talent involved, but donít expect to take much away from the production.
The Other Boleyn Girl arrives on Blu-ray in a standard Blu-ray case without a slipcover and an insert advertising other Sony products. The menus for the disc are nicely animated and navigated, although the navigation scroll area is a tad small. Still, itís a satisfactory setup for the film, so thereís not too much to complain about here.
Those that watch this film in standard definition will be missing out on quite a bit of beauty, as this 1080p AVC encoded 1.85:1 transfer is absolutely stunning. The aforementioned Genesis Camera used to film The Other Boleyn Girl has brought a fantastic transfer to the screen, offering up levels of detail that make the Blu-ray format worth itís high price tag. Colors are vibrant, blacks are deep and inky and the whole production shines from start to finish. Close-ups are not a problem with this transfer and quite a few of the resulting shots are some of the finest Iíve seen from this format yet.
For what the film boasts in visual clarity, it slackens a bit in the audio department. While the Dolby TrueHD tracks are nothing to scoff at, the film is admittedly dialogue driven and this forces the film to focus its efforts on the front end of the audio mix, although there is a subtle atmospheric mix throughout the film, with the occasional sound effect outside of whatever room of the castle weíre currently making an appearance in the background. Itís not something youíll likely notice too often, but itís a nice mix regardless. All three tracks, English, Spanish and French, all arrive in the TrueHD format. English, English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included as well.
Starting off with the extras we have a healthy mix and all of them are in 1080p. The biggest extra here, of course, is with first time director Justin Chadwick who lays it all out on his first commentary track. Chadwick is eager to please the viewer and tackles every element of the film that he can manage in the films near two hour run time. Chadwick also comes around again in the ďCamera TestsĒ (2:16) extra where he talks about the decision to use the Genesis Camera and also shows off some of the tests they did before starting the film.
Also accompanying the film itself is a ďPicture-in-GraphicsĒ track with trivia and facts about the film. As with some of the higher-profile Blu-ray releases, this track uses some of the added power of the format to impress the viewer with the pop-up trivia that visually impresses, although it can get a bit intrusive at times (but what trivia track doesnít?).
The rest of the extras on the set are your run of the mill fare and included twelve deleted scenes (23:46), biographies about the real life historical characters, six in all, with a runtime of 16:48 and a pair of featurettes: "To Be a Lady" (10:33) and "Translating History to Screen" (10:06). The featurettes discuss the womans role in the times of the Tudor and Boleynís as well as the task of adapting the original Philippa Gregory to the screen.
Overall itís a solid Blu-ray release and if you enjoy the film youíll be very pleased with the extras. Itís an interesting effort by first time director Chadwick; I was simultaneously interested and bored with the material, causing me to want to know what was coming in the next scene and then subsequently not caring about the result. Itís an odd film to witness and definitely one that will give you mixed feelings if youíre anything like me. I questioned if it was simply too female-centric for me to fully invest myself into, but Iíve not had problems with films like that in the past and I honestly canít see women being too enthralled with the elements occurring on screenÖso The Other Boleyn Girl is certainly a curious mix of a film and one I still canít quite peg down. That in of itself requires this film to be RecommendedÖfear of the unknown doesnít always equal bad. Not right away anyway.
The Other Boleyn Girl is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.