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Movie Report: The Other Boleyn Zzzzzzz

I want to be witty and incisive about the world today, but I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. I’m holding off on coffee because I’m seriously considering going back to some horizontal surface OTHER than the one where I tried to sleep last night and trying to catch a few more Zs.

Long story involving pet sitting Mom’s sausage dog (not that bad) and the hellcat who hates me (who, at 18 years of age, can’t really be bothered to try and destroy me anymore, so has settled on annoying me to death), rewrite frustrations, and sundry other things.

One thing that SHOULD have cured my sleeplessness: the movie version of The Other Boleyn Girl. So today’s semi-coherent post should be appropriate report on this semi-coherent movie.

I really enjoyed Phillipa Gregory’s novel. She took some liberties with the gaps in biographical information, but the really scandalous allegations about Anne Boleyn (i.e., incest) she left insinuated. The story stayed firmly with Mary Boleyn (the title character, after all), and though our sympathies were with her, Anne came off as ambitious, driven, sometimes ruthless, always conniving, but intelligent and complex. Henry VIII was not always admirable–where women were concerned, he always seemed to be after the next shiny bauble–but you got why he was that way. All the characters were complex and interesting.

The movie was absolute dreck. I can’t even work up a really good rant about it, because it was that boring. The characters were cardboard thin (Henry is a tool, Anne is merely a vindictive bitch who wants what her sister has, Mary is a doormat), the plot makes no sense, the history was either out and out wrong, or abbreviated to the point of incomprehensibilty. It’s not even a case of I know too much about the period to just enjoy this movie for a pretty costume drama (the costumes were quite pretty). It’s that if I didn’t know the Boleyn story already, I would never have been able to understand what happened in this movie.*

I do have one rant. It’s feminist and spoilery — for the movie, not for history, since I assume y’all know how Anne ended up (beheaded) and who her her daughter was (Elizabeth I). (I love how the film treats this as a big reveal at the end. Once again Hollywood assumes Americans are idiots…. Oh, wait.)

Okay, so in the movie, after Anne has been holding out sex until Henry divorces Catherine and marries her, she tries to put him off once too often (until she has the ring and the crown) and Henry rapes her. Not rough seduction, no euphemism, no lie there and think of England. While the camera focuses on Anne’s face, not the action, there’s clothes tearing, and screaming and crying.

Since the book is all from Mary’s POV we don’t see what actually happens between Anne and Henry when they finally do the deed, though we do know she’s been putting him off, using all the tricks she’s learned in France to keep him interested while keeping her legs together. She does give in before they’re actually married, and we’re not given any details. But I don’t RECALL there being any hint of it being forced.

So why this change from the book bothers me so much is the statement Hollywood is making. It’s not enough that Anne paid for her ambition by, you know, getting her head cut off. She also had to pay for being a strong, manipulative woman by being raped. Anne made the unforgivable Hollywood sin of being in charge of her own sexuality, and of using that sexuality to lead a king around by his dick.** She was called a witch and a whore back then, and apparently we haven’t come so far in five hundred years, because the makers of this film thought she didn’t suffer enough before being tried and executed. And this makes me very very sad.

Fortunately, this movie is so very bad and boring, I doubt it will have a wide spread cultural impact.

I finally got my cup of coffee, but it hasn’t kicked in yet, so I hope this post makes more sense than that movie did.

**The actual historical events were much much more complex than this, and Henry’s wanting to marry Anne was the catalyst, but not the sole basis for England’s break with Rome. But in the movie, it does come down to what Little Henry wants.

*For full disclosure, I should mention the Shotime series "The Tutors" also plays fast and loose with historical detail (rockstar!Henry, obviously), and yet it’s been one of my guilty pleasures for two seasons. I mean, they had me at Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey, but there was no going back after they cast Peter O’Toole as the Pope. I think it’s been picked up for a third season, but I’m not sure I’m going to keep watching it now that my all my favorites have gone to the block.