Film: The Other Boleyn Girl

The 2008 adaptation of the novel, The Other Boleyn Girl shows a romanticized 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.
  • 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.
  • Amicably Divorced: Averted by Catherine of Aragon who IS the rightful Queen of England in her eyes.
  • Arranged Marriage
  • 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've 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: Anne Boleyn gets a short one.
  • 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.
  • Dueling-Stars Movie: Portman vs. Johansson
  • 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 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: The beheadings.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: 16th century Royal English Court attire.
  • Happily Ever After: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue says this about Mary's future.
    • Still, Mary died rather young in real life (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 but 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 with Carey, Mary with Stafford. Henry VIII with Catherine and Anne, for a bit.
  • Heir Club for Men: 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.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Mary is the light and Anne is the dark.
  • Love Dodecahedron: EVERYONE to Henry.
  • Marry for Love: Mary and Stafford.
  • Off with His Head!: George Boleyn and Anne Boleyn.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Anne to Henry Percy.
  • Pimped-Out Dress
  • Pretty in Mink
  • 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.
  • Take That: Delivered by Catherine of Aragon to both sisters at once before she enters her trial.
  • The Mistress: Mary Boleyn, but technically not Anne.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: For those that don't know this already.
    • Specifically Anne Boleyn as her own gambit to become queen overshadows the original gambit.