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Film / The Other Boleyn Girl

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Anne; Mary; Henry.
The 2008 adaptation of the novel, The Other Boleyn Girl shows a dramatized version of the events around Henry VIII's marriage to his first and second wives and his affair with Mary Boleyn.

The plot revolves around the two Boleyn sisters Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) competing for the affections of Henry VIII (Eric Bana). Political machinations run rampant in this movie and plots are laid, hatched, destroyed and reborn sometimes within minutes of one another, however for any meager student of history you will inevitably know all the rest of it already.

This Film contains the following Tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The book is almost 700 pages long. The movie has to elide a great deal to fit several years worth of events into two hours of film.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Catherine of Aragon looks much better in the film than she was reported to in real life. While she was very beautiful in her youth, her ten pregnancies took a massive toll on her. Her figure was reportedly ruined by the time she was thirty and her auburn hair had faded to grey.
    • Anne herself was described by one of her friends as being "good-looking enough," which means she probably wasn't very attractive by the standards of the day. She's played by Natalie Portman.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: George Boleyn is imagined as Ambiguously Gay, given Ho Yay with some male courtiers and his wife remarking "you never lie with me". The real George Boleyn was a notorious womaniser.
  • Arranged Marriage: Just about every noble in this story has their match arranged by their family because it's the accepted way of doing things, and high level marriages require royal permission. Anne's attempt to have a secret marriage to a man who's already engaged to someone else has to be hushed up to prevent a scandal, and she is punished by being sent off to the French court.
  • Artistic License History: Anne and Mary were both raised in France, and would have had French accents, not English.
    • Speaking of accents, the English spoken in the first half of the sixteenth century would have been English, but Shakespearean (Early-Middle Modern) English/ Early Common.
    • Mary was banished from the English Court by the Boleyn family for marrying so far below her station, not because she was a threat for Henry's affection.
      • When her husband Carey died she became a maid and was given a large widow's pension by her sister, the Queen, until she remarried. Then she was kicked out of court because Stafford was a soldier. The sisters never spoke again. Mary and Stafford were banished to remain in Rochford Hall, and not allowed to return to France as Mary wanted to. She did not go to London (probably out of stubbornness and annoyance at being held prisoner at a family estate) to see her siblings, nor the King. The rest of the Boleyns died within three years of each other after the execution of Anne and so Mary inherited what she was allowed by the state (admittedly, not much). Baron Carey (Mary's eldest son) was good friends with Queen Elizabeth, though.
    • Mary was probably about a year or two older than Anne, too, and the parts with the back-and-forth marriage arrangements with Carey are probably fictional. Truly, though, the family would have wanted her for King Henry in the same way she was for King Francis of France. Mary was the King's mistress for around three years.
    • Mary's personality was supposedly more like Anne's is depicted in the movie, so Anne may have been more delicate rather than the other way around. The French King called Mary "a great slag, infamous above all". Anne, also, would not need to try and seduce the King as he was also more than a little promiscuous and, knowing that Mary had a son, would think that Anne could give him one (she gave him at least two, one miscarried the other died before his first birthday).
      • Anne also became pregnant with Elizabeth in January of the year she married Henry (probably not long before the marriage, and eight years after Mary chose to stop being his mistress); historians are generally in dispute over whether the reason he married her because of this pregnancy. Hence, she wouldn't have been teasing the King but his mistress and if Mary was pregnant with his children (a whole ten years earlier) he would've married her.
      • Henry VIII was still married to Catherine of Aragon until after he married Anne Boleyn, so he couldn't really marry Mary before his divorce was going through. Mary's first two children were, interestingly enough, named Catherine and Henry, this could be taken as a sign of appeasement, of great patriotism, of her disputed infatuation with the King, or that she hoped the pair would be long wed. Also, her second two children were named Edward and Anne, perhaps after her sister (her second son born shortly before the King's own).
    • While Henry VIII did have an illigitimate son (Henry FitzRoy, literally 'Henry, the King's son') between the births of Mary and Elizabeth, his mother was Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount, not Mary Boleyn. Mary did also have two children, a daughter then a son, in this time. It is unlikely they were the children of the King. FitzRoy was acknowledged by the King as his son and given a place in court, though when Thomas Boleyn claimed Mary's son was also the King's, Henry acknowledged neither mother nor child.
    • Mary Boleyn did not take and raise the future Queen Elizabeth as the movie suggests; with the exception of being demoted from Princess to Lady, Elizabeth's life remained the same.
    • Anne was accused of having adultery with seven men, including George (whereas the film suggests it was just George). It's widely thought to have been cooked up by Thomas Cromwell out of nothing - not a case of Not What It Looks Like thanks to Jane Parker. While she did testify against her husband in court, she was more likely paid off by Cromwell.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Deconstructed when we briefly see Anne having the crown placed on her head following her marriage to Henry, but her emotional distress from Henry having raped her and blaming her for seducing him away from his wife and the Church makes what should be her moment of triumph feel like a Pyrrhic Victory.
  • Badass Boast: When Catherine of Aragon is being brought to court, she confronts the Boleyn sisters over their betrayal. Anne mocks her, calling Catherine infertile and unworthy of being Henry's wife. Catherine's response?
    Catherine of Aragon: How dare you. You want me to creep away and become a nun? Well I shall not. You want me to lie before God and admit my first marriage was consummated? Well it was not. You want me to retire and give up my daughter's claim as sole rightful heir to the throne? Well I shall not. Not in a thousand years. Not if you wrack me to within an inch of my life. I am Catherine, Queen of England! The King's one true wife and mother of the heir to the throne. Beloved of the people, and beloved of a king you have bewitched.
  • Batman Gambit: The Boleyns having their daughter have an affair with the King to gain more political power.
  • Break the Cutie: Both sisters get their share, first Mary, then Anne. Mostly Mary, who's completely heartbroken (hinting that Stafford is her rebound guy and that the King's rejection makes her feel so dejected she doesn't think she deserves any better than her former servant).
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Elizabeth Boleyn (née Howard) calls out both her husband - who receives a rather loud and probably painful slap - and her brother for Anne's fate. She's probably right. Note, the word "probably" should be read as "completely and absolutely most definitely"
  • Composite Character: George was one of seven men Anne was accused of having adultery with. The film just has George being accused.
  • English Rose: The Tudor beauty Mary makes an impression on the king.
    Henry: You don't think he'll miss court? A young ambitious man.
    Mary: He says not, Your Majesty. But if he ever changed his mind...as his wife, of course, I would do his bidding.
  • The Exile: Anne is exiled to France after she marries against her family's will, subverted in that she uses the opportunity to learn how to seduce royalty while there.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Mary taking care of Henry after he takes a spill while horse riding on the Boleyn estate, she takes care of him, and this takes effect.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When the beheadings are shown, the camera cuts away the moment before the blow connects. We just see the reaction of the crowd as we hear the blade chop and the head thud to the ground.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: 16th century Royal English Court attire is represented in all its voluminous glory.
  • Happily Ever After: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue says that Mary and Stafford lived happily as a couple after the events of the film. This is a bit tidier than real life in which Mary died rather young (as many did), barely nine years into her marriage and when her younger children were seven and eight. Stafford outlived her and had six more children with his second cousin Dorothy, whom he married two years after Mary's death. Apparently Edward called his new stepmom "Aunt" instead, but that could well be as fictional as most of this movie.
  • Happily Married: Mary and Stafford are the only couple that end up happy in the long term, since in every other relationship either the love goes away or the partners get separated by circumstance.
  • Heir Club for Men: Henry is anxious to produce a male heir in order to protect his dynasty and avert civil war, since a girl is not considered strong enough to hold power. The historical events of this movie inspired the Trope Namer.
  • Hot Consort: After Anne came home from France the king found her so seductive (hot) that he was willing to risk everything to make her his queen (consort). After he married her he lost interest though.
  • Hollywood History: The only way to tell this tale in a two hour film is to simplify and condense something that was more complicated in real life.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Mary is the light and Anne is the dark.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Who wants to get with who is quite complicated, because everyone seemingly loves someone they shouldn't, wants to sleep their way to the top, and/or keeps changing their minds. Catherine of Aragon wants to keep her husband, but Henry is looking for a new woman and initially settles on Mary. Mary likes her first husband William Carrey and doesn't want to go to bed with Henry, but after they do she changes her mind and falls in love with Henry. Anne seduces Henry away from Mary, so now both Mary and Catherine are left unrequited. Then Henry gets tired of Anne and starts going out with Jane Seymour, etc.
  • Marry for Love: Stafford proposes to Mary later in the film, promising that he will never betray her or take her for granted. In the end she accepts, and the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue tells us they were Happily Married ever after.
  • Off with His Head!: George Boleyn and Anne Boleyn are beheaded at the Tower of London for incest and treason. George gets the axe, while Anne gets a swordsman from France as one last courtesy.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Anne's parents and uncle refuse to recognize Anne's marriage to Henry Percy because it will create a scandal and get them in hot water with the king. Even though they were married before a priest and consummated the union, they are forced to cover it up and pretend it never happened.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: All the court ladies wear fancy dresses with fine tailoring, silk, brocade, embroidery, pearls, the whole shebang.
  • Pretty in Mink: The nobility shows off its glamour and wealth with lots of luxurious fur. Anne wears a mantle of ermine to the scaffold.
  • Rape as Drama: By the time he obtains a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry is impatient for Anne to give herself to him, especially because he blames her for egging him on to leave his wife and the Church. When Anne again refuses to go all the way until they're married, he flies into a rage and violently rapes her.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Before she enters her trial, Catherine of Aragon chews out both Boleyn sisters for being sluts and backstabbers, reminding them that she is the true Queen of England.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: One of the shots in the movie, that was also shown often in promotional material, was Anne in her coronation clothing.
  • Right Through His Pants: The rape scene occurs with both of them fully clothed, and without taking even half a second to remove the many, many layers that would have been in the way.
  • Settle for Sibling: William Carey originally wishes to marry Anne, but her father gives him Mary instead, as he thinks Anne can do better.
  • The Mistress: Mary Boleyn becomes Henry's mistress, sleeping with him and bearing his child out of wedlock while he is still married to Catherine of Aragon. Anne, in contrast, refuses to become Henry's mistress and insists on him divorcing his wife and marrying her before she will sleep with him.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: For those that don't know this already, the Epilogue presents us with vignettes of the various characters, informing us in the captions that Thomas Boleyn died in disgrace, Thomas Howard was put in the Tower for Treason, Mary lived happily in the country with Stafford, and Elizabeth grew up to reign as queen for 44 years.
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