Right off the bat let me reveal that I enjoyed this flick. My husband was not as forgiving of the few flaws, calling it a glorified soap opera! The funny thing is that he is actually kind of correct, but that did not bother me! I feel it necessary to be clear in that this particular tale, based on the controversial and highly embellished novel by Philippa Gregory, makes no attempt to be historically accurate or to delve too deeply into the politics or world events that were transpiring at the time. You all know how big I am on history, so can say that I was a little bit disappointed that the momentous happenings that surrounded Anne Boleyn and King Henry, like the radical upheaval of breaking with the Roman Catholic Church that changed the face of England forever, were glossed over and pushed into the background. I personally would have preferred a movie that focused a bit more on those elements. I think it would have given the overall story more drama and significance.
This is partly why my hubby calling it a soap opera is so apt. The entire story focuses on the romantic entanglements of the two Boleyn sisters and the manipulative maneuverings performed to snare the most powerful man in the world. Of course, since the trailers and ads make no bones about this, I don’t think one should be too shocked or critical of this fact. So the question isn’t whether it should have involved more accuracy or historical truth, but whether the drama was played well. In general I would say yes. As I said, I liked the movie very much. However, I did not think it was perfect.
I am currently reading the book, and although I have not gotten very far, I like how Gregory has written Mary as an innocent who truly loved Henry and was loved, as much as he was capable, in return. The movie did not accent this fact as much as I think it should have. Late in the film Henry speaks of his love for Mary, but we see no real evidence of it in the beginning. More time should have been spent to show an evolving relationship that was not just about sex. Plus, it would have given the divine Eric Bana more to do than just glower and stare through the whole movie!
This brings me to my biggest complaint. Bana is delicious, no doubt, but he is also a terrific actor. Here he was not given too much to do other than glower and stare, rage a couple of times like a petulant child not getting his way, and then glower some more. Rather sad. Again, I know the story is not as much about Henry the person as it was about the sisters fighting over a King, but think a few subtle rewrites would have benefited all three of the main characters. Showing Henry as the complex figure that he was would have made the entire movie more emotive and human. Rather he is very two dimensional and quite childish.
It must be incredibly tough to take a thick novel filled with reams of information and squish it into a 2 hour movie! I can’t even imagine. Yet, some playwrights do admirable jobs, allowing the viewer to completely ‘get’ what is transpiring before their eyes, to draw them into the action in such a way that they are breathless and weak by the end. I am not so sure this playwright had the skill. There was a manic rush to the scenes, a compression toward the latter half as if they suddenly realized they had loads to tell and needed to shove it all in irregardless of whether clarity was maintained. The full comprehension of why Anne was so manipulative, that women had no rights or power other than their sexuality, was not so clear. Thus she was rather unsympathetic as a character. Of course, I do think this is how Gregory wrote her, the novel centering on the lesser known Mary as the sympathetic one. The problem is that by the time Henry orders Anne to be killed, you really could care less! She may have had her faults, and history shows this, but I personally did not like the conclusion in that respect.
Reading over my words I realize it sounds like I hated the movie! Sorry about that! I really didn’t!! I just wanted to point out a few of the disappointments. The acting was very good, given the constraints of the script. The attention to detail in the scenery and costuming was exceptional. You really felt as if you were in 16th century England. The cinematography was stunning. Gosh, I want to go to England!!! And in the end, what is wrong with a good old fashioned, bodice ripping romance?! I suppose I tend to agree with the bulk of the critics who felt that the movie needed to decide in which camp it was going to be: serious historical drama or fun sexy romp. It definitely leaned toward the latter, but probably should have just gone all the glitzy way ala The Tudors of HBO. Yeah, more Eric almost nude! That would have been good!!