Nominal Benedict Cumberbatch mention:
Last night I revisited from my collection The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) in which BC has a small supporting role as William Carey, the poor unfortunate slob who had his newlywed bride stolen by King Henry VIII when the King took a shine to her and thought she looked capable of producing an heir for England, despite the inconvenience of her being married to another man. 'She' is Mary Boleyn Carey (Scarlett Johannsson), younger sister of the infamous Anne. After Mary was confined to bed with a high-risk pregnancy, the King lost interest in her and turned his attentions to Anne. We all know how that worked out for her.
When one is a man who is being cuckolded by his sovereign all the while being forced to witness it as a member of the King's privy chamber . . what can one do about it? Nothing except suffer silently unless one wants to be executed for treason. Everything belongs to the King, in the end, including all of his subjects' wives, if he fancies them. Benedict, on the cusp of international stardom but still 2 years out from Sherlock here does what he can with a nominal role, and looks suitably tortured while wearing feathered caps rather fetchingly. Also appearing as another courtier and childhood friend of the Boleyn girls is Eddie Redmayne. Little did he and BC know at the time that only 6 years later, they'd be battling head to head for the 2014 Oscar. (Win to Mr. Redmayne for his Stephen Hawking. The Academy goes for a wheelchair every single time.)
This movie is sumptuously shot. It looks really awesome and the costumes by Sandy Powell (who also did Shakespeare in Love, among others) are sublime. Ms. Powell really excels at this period. Kristin Scott Thomas is Lady Boleyn and Mark Rylance is Sir Thomas Boleyn. David Morrissey plays the scheming uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who is determined to play Queenmaker and advance the fortunes of his family by putting a Boleyn girl in the orbit of Henry Tudor. The screenplay is Peter Morgan, the King of British royal historical dramas (The Queen; the current Netfix series The Crown). Given the excellence of his other work, I was surprised that Mr. Morgan devised such an ultimately limp, soapy and melodramatic take on this era and these people.
Ms. Johannsson comes off the best in this twisted triad as the sweet, nurturing Mary, an obedient daughter and wife and a devoted sister, who is forced into a relationship with the King through the machinations of her rapacious uncle and equally greedy but weak-willed father in a time when women were the property of their male relatives by law. Mary did as she was ordered because she had to, not because she was a morally loose woman later embittered to be cast aside in favor of her sister, as she is portrayed in that other Anne B. potboiler Anne of the Thousand Days. Natalie Portman emotes her little heart out but she is strangely non-compelling as Anne, despite having the right coloring for her. But the winner of the Razzie for 'worst casting/limpest acting' here must go to Eric Bana. Mr. Bana is suitably tall and athletic and has a beard. But the same might be said for a life-size cardboard replica of himself, for all the passion or even signs of life which he displays here. He flounces through these proceedings in Henry's trademark huge-shouldered ermine embellished capes virtually monosyllabic and seeming embarrassed to be there at all. As he should have been. Never has such a large and otherwise masculine guy made so little substantial impression as one of history's most substantial men that he might as well be made of fog. Or marshmallows. He is a clotheshorse and that's about it in this movie.
The reviewer for the Mercury News, Bruce Newman, summed it up so well in his review at the time that I'm going to let him tell you what he thinks . . .
As Anne, Portman attempts to transport her reign as Queen Padme Amidala of the planet Naboo in “Star Wars” to 16th century England. The only satisfying distinction between the two performances is that this time she’s executed for it. Portman has been quite good in pictures such as “Closer” and “Garden State.” But she can also be dreadful, as she’s been recently in “Goya’s Ghosts” and “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” and as she is again here. You can see her acting all over the place, and while Johansson is more subdued as her sister, she’s not much better. The picture is directed by Justin Chadwick, whose emergence from a well-deserved obscurity he is now ready to resume. Chadwick and Morgan have cooked up a potboiler, the sort of thing that might have been fun to watch with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the Boleyn sisters, while Charles Laughton lasciviously eyed the backs of their necks as Henry. Instead, we get Eric (“Hulk”) Bana, flouncing around in red velvet, his royal hopes for an heir to the throne extremely high, his Y-chromosome count apparently very low. When his first wife delivers a stillborn son, the king is fortunate enough to have among his courtiers England’s leading pimp, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey, the star of “Basic Instinct 2” and “The Reaping,” a bill of indictment to which one more unforgivable sin is now added). Norfolk is not only a pimp, but brother-in-law to a rural pimp with a learner’s permit and a stable of daughters – Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance). Norfolk and Sir Thomas conspire to exploit the queen’s spotty record birthing babies and replace her with a mistress they control: AnneBut before Anne can assume the royal position, VIII gets an eyeful of Mary and decides Norfolk has procured the wrong Boleyn girl. This is slightly inconvenient because Mary is a recent newlywed, but only slightly. Hubby quickly signs onto the pimp apprenticeship program that evidently is the mark of manhood in the Boleyn family. All of this requires the forbearance of tedious plot details and historical exposition before we ever get to know much about the characters, principally the sisters. Morgan’s script dishes up melodrama instead of the sort of tart, intelligent power struggles we’ve come to expect from him. The roistering of this particular royal has been treated with far greater panache in the Showtime series “The Tudors.”