The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Script Review: The Other Boleyn Girl – A Pan, in Play Form

Written by: Jimmy Hitt, CC2K Staff Writer

Image So I’m at work in my drab Baltimore law office where I’m a drab legal assistant type who can leap tall stacks of paper in a single bound and dial faster than a speeding…“Thing” from the Addams Family?…and I see that CC2K has happened upon an entire stack of screenplays at our disposal.  Of course I really wanted to read National Treasure 2: International Treasure, but I also noticed The Other Boleyn Girl, a book I recall being part of the larger Philippa Gregory canon, which my fiancée, like most other ladies who fit her demographic, absorbs regularly and with reckless abandon.

Now, in my mind I often compare the work of Philippa Gregory to…oh let me see here…Satan?  For those of you not in the know, she writes highly romanticized historical fiction that probably shares addictive qualities with nicotine and opiates.  Her forte is Tudor England, i.e. the life and times of one Henry VIII, but she’ll also venture into other centuries just for the hell of it. 

Thus far, Gregory has penned 17 historical romantic fiction “novels” dealing with such themes as unrequited love, longing, yearning, revenge, seduction, betrayal, and…intercourse.  Yes, eventually even the British—inventors of subdued passion and smarmy punch lines—get around to copulation, when they aren’t raping foreign nations of mineral wealth, playing footie, or joining forces with our own evil empire in the interest of perpetual world domination.

I must admit—if you haven’t already noticed—that I hold a deep grudge against Mrs. Gregory.  You see, fair CC2Kers, my fiancée has devoted roughly a year of her life to reading Gregory’s entire catalogue, massive period piece after massive period piece. 

This I can deal with superficially because it allows me plenty of time to watch NHL hockey or absorb Yojimbo, but in the last few months everything’s changed.  Suddenly, and without warning, a veritable tsunami of Philippa Gregory has hit the American shores, with every well-to-do female who can read snatching up her work like secret Lily Pulitzer mailing-list only print skirts.  Gone are the days when a lone female would read a Gregory book, hold it to her chest, sigh, and yearn to be admitted to a long-since dissolved Tudor court, replete with dancing jesters, one of a kind hoop skirts from Tuscany and heaps of gossip about who is f-ing who and why that girl is considered a whore.  You know, like college but with the added authenticity of history.  Now, the ladies in my life are constantly trading paperbacks and exchanging emails and phone calls about how—despite his hair color being wrong—Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is soooo hot as Henry VIII.  Frankly, if Rhys-Meyers hadn’t gatted Scarjo in Match Point, I’m not sure I could take him seriously.  He did do Bend It Like Beckham after all. 

Anyway, said tsunami brought its awesome power to my world rather unexpectedly in the form of the Showtime series The Tudors.  Initially, I allowed this series to air in my presence because it contains copious amounts of nudity, violence, and period set designs intended to deflect 98% of its audience from its most glaring deficiency: it kind of sucks in a vapid, wannabe-Rome or wanna-Sopranos way.  Yet, with “The Tudors!” scrawled on OUR calendar in OUR apartment, there was no way to avoid watching it on Sunday evenings, or re-watching it via On-Demand.  The calendar might as well be written in blood, regardless of how easily my own calendar entries get ignored and dismissed.  Tickets to go see Ted Leo and the Pharmacists…who cares?  House party in Federal Hill?  Fuggedaboutit!

The other day I’m on and I see that Scarjo and Natpo are starring in The Other Boleyn Girl, set for release sometime later this year, which coincided with the arrival of the selfsame screenplay.  So I’m all, “The honey would dig reading this in advance…” and she’s all, “Goddamn right, the dude…fork it over.” So I did.  Little did I realize that aside from being rife with historical inaccuracies, The Other Boleyn Girl, in its current form, is a major disaster on multiple levels.

Earlier this year I wrote an unpublished draft for an article entitled “My Fiancee the Movie Filter”, where I argued that non-moviebuff-types offer fantastic perspectives on films.  Why did she hate The Prestige?  Why did she love 300?  Why does she claim to hate chick flicks but love Mean Girls?  In the interest of brevity, I will dispense with that article altogether, and instead offer her distilled opinions on why The Other Boleyn Girl will suck, why the screenplay sucks, and why the book was awesome.  I still love you Scarjo!  Damn that Rhys-Meyers to Hell for offing you!


Me: So admittedly you don’t know Citizen Kane from Citizen X?

Fiancee: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Me: Excellent.  So…what attracts you most to Philippa Gregory books…and quit giving me googly eyes.

Fiancee: She does a great job of putting you in the times.  It’s an escape for me; like I’m sure music or movies are for you.

Me: Please don’t use semicolons.  Vonnegut is rolling in his grave. 

Fiancee: Who?  What?

Me: So let’s talk historical inaccuracies.  First of all, how do you know this screenplay is inaccurate if your only source is a book that’s inaccurate?

Fiancee: Philippa Gregory takes creative liberties, but at the core, her novels are the closest you’re going to get to the real thing.  Think about what you’ve read in a book like The Agony and the Ecstasy, except with romance instead of sculpture.  Do we know Michelangelo dissected bodies?  No.  But we can surmise that he did.

Me: Well put.  I guess that liberal arts education paid off.  So, getting back to historical inaccuracies, what exactly is wrong with this screenplay?

Fiancee: Oh my god.  Where to begin?

Me: Well keep in mind that I have no idea what you’re talking about anyway, so just say whatever.

Fiancee: In that case, the Boleyn family was never trying to search for a mistress for the king so that she could bear an heir.  Henry Fitzroy (son of mistress Bessie Blount) was a bastard heir and still alive until 1636, three years after Anne became the king’s wife.

Me: Wow.  So that’s a pretty big addition to the script.  Why would they do that?

Fiancee:Probably to make the Boleyns seem more evil or greedy than they actually were.  Every story needs a villain.  Even shitty stories.  But they also take liberties with the actual function of a king or queen’s visits and royal appointments.  For instance, Henry met the Boleyn girls at a masquerade at his court in England.  He never visited the family’s home.  Look up Robert Dudley and you can see that Queen Elizabeth's visit to his home was unusual and put him far into debt with entertaining costs and the like. It would be economic suicide to bring the king to your house.

Me: Like paying for all of George Bush’s golf outings and cases of O’Douls?

Fiancee: More or less.  But that’s just scratching the surface.  This screenplay is wholly inaccurate, and seemingly written so as to up the romance level and make things seem more modern-day.  Remember when we watched Marie Antoinette?  Well, that was pretty close to accurate.  She really was surrounded by servants and attendants 24-7.  There’s a scene in this screenplay, though, where Mary is seduced by the king while she’s totally alone.  That’s garbage.  Those types of ladies were never allowed to be alone and had servants with them at all times.

Me: So you have major gripes with this screenplay.

Fiancee: Oh yeah.  Right down to the characterizations.  There’s this birthing scene where that’s totally ridiculous.  Anne was not that mean.  It is like something you would see on a cheesy soap opera.

Me: Sounds like they’re trying to create some drama or something eh?

Fiancee: They’re trying to make the audience hate Anne and love Mary, but things weren’t like that at all.  You’ll see what I mean when you see the movie.

Me: Oh I’m not seeing this one.

Fiancee: Yes you are.  You’ll love it, just like you loved Marie Antoinette.

Me: Well this does have Scarjo.

Fiancee: Ugh!  She’s so fugly.

Me: Wrong.  She’s perfect.  So getting back to the screenplay, what else was wrong with it, historically speaking?

Fiancee: Well, the biggest gripe I have is the timing and pacing of the whole thing. For instance, from the time that Mary had the child to Anne becoming a mistress is like 10 years, not 30 seconds.  It really betrays the slow pace of the times.  Things did not happen so fast in those days.  Read a Jane Austen book and you will get a feel for how things worked.

Me: Don’t get me started on Jane Austen.  I’m interviewing you.  Anyway…so we know the historical aspect of the screenplay is about as accurate as Braveheart, but is this thing going to be any good?  Will women like it or just feel like another one of Colin Farell’s conquests?

Fiancee: He sucks.  No, women will hate this.  In my opinion, this movie takes a very interesting time period and turns it into a lousy soap opera.  Philippa Gregory's book was very much a historical "novel" but this movie is far more out there.  I think the Showtime series, which is also inaccurate, is much better than this.  It’s much more realistic and doesn’t pander to complete imbeciles quite as much.