The Other Other Boleyn Girl

Juno Temple as ‘Jane Parker’ (aka Lady Rochford) in “The Other Boleyn Girl”I always feel a little guilty when I sit down to watch historical dramas like The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), because I have such a terrible memory for facts and figures, and often have trouble keeping track of all the royals and their shady shenanigans… but a quick skim of this film’s IMDb “Goofs” page suggests that it was playing pretty fast and loose with historical accuracy, so I needn’t have worried. In fact, I was probably better off going in blind, rather than going in with educated expectations, only to be frustrated by the liberties that were taken in the name of “dramatic licence”.

For those who don’t know, TOBG is a “romanticised” account of the rather bizarre and depressing lives of Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson), one-time mistress of King Henry VIII, and her sister, Queen Anne (Natalie Portman), who became the monarch’s ill-fated second wife. My usual complaint about bio-pics applies here, with too many years and too many tears compressed into a sketchy feature-length summary of the eponymous sisters’ lives, from childhood to motherhood and/or death. Incidentally, “Motherhood or Death” might have made a good alternate title for this film… either that or “Which Way Is The King’s Penis Pointing This Week?” Aside from my general sympathy for the women of yesteryear, who had very few avenues for social advancement outside of marriage/mistress-hood, I can’t say I felt very attached to any of the characters here. I mean, the whole plot basically revolves around the two sisters “whoring” themselves out to a rich and famous man, while working alongside his estranged wife, in the hopes that their families will profit by association! For all the fancy gowns and cut-glass accents, it’s rather too seedy for my tastes…

Juno Temple as ‘Jane Parker’ (aka Lady Rochford) in “The Other Boleyn Girl”The only reason I picked this DVD up in the first place is that it features Juno Temple in the pivotal role of Jane Parker…. but sadly she’s more of a plot device than a fully fleshed-out person. My hopes were raised during her first dialogue scene, where she tries to befriend Mary, but after that all she does is silently react to other off-screen characters, or run out of rooms crying. Poor thing. At one point Mary and Anne’s brother, George Boleyn, describes Parker as a “vile girl”, which seemed a bit harsh really, since we hadn’t actually seen her doing anything particularly “vile” at that point… quite the opposite in fact. Historically Parker is regarded as a bit of a bad egg, because her false testimony supposedly resulted in Anne’s eventual execution… although here her accusation is based on a defensible misunderstanding, rather than a straight-up lie. She’s probably the most sympathetic character in the film actually, despite her relatively sparse screen time, because she seems to be an innocent victim of the Boleyns’ callous scheming, drawn into the political and emotional crossfire when she’s married off to the unfeeling George. Apparently he was depicted as an active homosexual in the Philippa Gregory novel that this script was adapted from, but there isn’t any evidence of that here. He just comes off as an ungrateful git! Still, if they ever adapt the rest of series, Parker apparently features as a main character in the sequel, The Boleyn Inheritance (co-starring Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard), so there’s something to look forward to.

Fun fact: In Ugly Betty, the heroine was rarely seen without her dangly “B” necklace, which was apparently based on one worn by Anne Boleyn, back in the day… so, it was really distracting for me to see Portman wearing it here. And with a film like this, it’s easy to be distracted…

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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5 Responses to The Other Other Boleyn Girl

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  4. I watched it for the same reason:) Really strange, but one of my friends remembered her from the film, mainly because she has this unique and cool name, it stuck inside my friend’s head. She even knew that Juno had brown hair, so that is very cool for a supporting role, especially with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson around, don’t you think?

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