The Other Boleyn Girl, based on Philippa Gregory's novel about the relationship between Henry VIII (Eric Bana) and Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) Boleyn, gives you everything you've come to expect from a modern historical drama. The costumes are gorgeous; the lighting's suitably muted. The drawing-room scenes are like something out of Rembrandt; the kitchen scenes like something out of Bosch. There are a great number of shots of people striding purposefully out of dark rooms, or of horses racing across the landscape, their speed unimpeded by the gravity of the news their riders bring. Personal squabbles turn into political struggles; moments of passion are contemplated as possible foundations for 100-year dynasties. There are fights and tights, gowns and frowns, tears and blood and sweat.
But, at the same time, The Other Boleyn Girl fails to give you anything other than what you've come to expect from the modern costume drama; it doesn't have that little something extra that could make it truly exceptional. The film lacks the baroque lunacy of Elizabeth, or the moral weight of A Man for All Seasons, the silken sexual gamesmanship of Dangerous Liaisons or the rich metaphors of Girl with a Pearl Earring. The Other Boleyn Girl, to quote another great costume drama, has no spur to prick the sides of its intent; it just sort of goes from happy days at the family estate to grim ones at the chopping block, drifting like a lazy sailboat whose sails are occasionally filled with enough shouting to nudge the plot from one scene to the next.