From the Leap Day Oregonian ....
"The Other Boleyn Girl" plays like an unofficial prequel to those loopy Cate Blanchett "Elizabeth" movies. It tells the story of Elizabeth's mom Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) and Anne's sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) as they have sexy-tragic misadventures in the court and bedroom of Henry VIII (Eric Bana).
The sisters' father (Mark Rylance) and uncle (David Morrissey, the low-calorie Liam Neeson) are using the girls to try and advance their power and social standing. At their prodding, Anne tries to attract the married king and fails; Mary reluctantly becomes the king's mistress; Anne comes back from France having apparently read "The Rules" and uses Reverse Psychology for Dummies to steal the king from Mary, and....
You know what? Just read the Wikipedia entry on Anne Boleyn. Not only is it more illuminating than "The Other Boleyn Girl," chances are you'd be able to write a more entertaining script from it than the one used by director Justin Chadwick.
"Boleyn" is a mild disaster for several reasons. First, the screenplay (adapted from Philippa Gregory's novel by Peter Morgan) is relentlessly, hilariously expository. No one shows up in the movie without a paragraph of dialogue being spoken that explains who he or she is and how they'll fit into the plot -- i.e., "What could you possibly want with the sole heir to the largest landowner in Europe?"
Even women in labor aren't spared this curse: Mere seconds after enduring a painful stillbirth, the Queen of England turns to her daughter and says, "No brother for you to make this country safe."
These are just two of literally dozens of examples of this.
The all-description storytelling leads to other problems, too -- the worst being that "Boleyn" suffers from the same affliction as "The Golden Compass," where you're told about interesting stuff happening elsewhere in another movie you'd much rather be watching.
Chadwick focuses his camera on all the wrong things -- to the degree that a ridiculous number of key plot points happen offscreen: a hunting accident, Anne's transformative French education, entire courtships and meetings and secret romances, key moments of bonding and betrayal.... It's as if Morgan refused to try writing these scenes for fear he'd get them wrong.
All this leaves the movie so unfocused, you're unsure which Boleyn sister is supposed to be the main character. It also leaves good actors to posture endlessly while portraying Mad-Libs blanks instead of flesh-and-blood humans. And it makes "Boleyn" feel like a Cliff's Notes version of itself.
D-plus; 115 minutes; rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content and some violent images.
'The Other Boleyn Girl' (The Oregonian, Feb. 29, 2008)