'The Other Boleyn Girl' is the latest in a string of films and TV series dealing with the life and times of England's Tudor monarchs.
Yet, Justin Chadwick's soap opera of ambition, sibling rivalry, intrigue and deceit at the court of King Henry VIII provides nothing new for an audience already familiar with the story of the king and his peccadilloes. Indeed, this is not the first time that Phillipa Gregory's novel of the same name has been adapted for the screen, as the BBC produced a series in 2003.
Chadwick, who directed 'Bleak House' for the BBC, and scriptwriter Peter Morgan, who received an Oscar nomination for his script for Stephen Frears' 'The Queen', have chosen to portray the fanciful aspects of Henry's reign. They breeze through the most important aspects of the time, such as Catherine of Aragon's trial, the break from Rome and the founding of the Church of England.
The decision to use three foreign actors in the lead roles is sure to needle some British critics. Portman and Johansson are two of the best young actresses that Hollywood has to offer and, to their credit, both perform above the limitations of the script in the portrayal of sibling rivalry. Portman, in particular, sparkles as the coquette Anne.
Bana has proved himself to be a versatile actor in 'Chopper', 'Troy', 'Hulk' and 'Munich'. However, this is far from his greatest performance and doesn't come close to those parts. Although his muscular Henry does not conform to the ginger glutton stereotypes of the past, he fails to portray any of the emotion of a man at the centre of a personal and political maelstrom.
Mary (Johansson) and Anne (Portman) are beautiful young girls who are used by their ambitious father (Rylance) to gain social standing to win favour with the King (Bana), who has given up hope of Queen Catherine (Torrent) producing a male heir.
Despite protestations from his wife Elizabeth (Scott Thomas), Thomas Boleyn and his brother-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk (Morrissey), plot to win power and position for the family by allowing one of the girls to woo Henry and become his mistress.
Anne is her father's choice, but on an arranged visit to the family home Henry is more taken with the reserved, and married, Mary than feisty Anne. With the consent of her father and her feeble husband (Cumberbatch), Mary is ordered to court against her will.
She becomes Henry's lover and soon she is with child, but a difficult pregnancy leaves her bedridden and Henry's eye wanders once again. A determined Anne returns from the French court ready to fulfil her ambition of becoming queen. In deceiving her sister for personal gain, Anne puts herself and her family on the road to perdition.
Using her virtue and charm, Anne forces Henry into divorcing Catherine so that she can provide him with a legitimate male heir. But having adroitly secured her man she faces a tougher task of keeping him satisfied.
There is a vulnerability about all who come into Henry's presence and they, Anne included, face a constant battle to stay on his side or risk being banished from court, or worse in Anne's case.
Having spent much of the film dealing with Henry's love life, Chadwick races through the main historical points, such as the Reformation, as the film nears its inevitable conclusion.
Thus, the narrative becomes disjointed towards the end and the scene dealing with the consummation of Henry and Anne's relationship is slightly odd and out of character with the rest of the film.
As with most of today's period dramas, there are great costumes. But if one of the main positive points of the film is its sartorial merits, then there really is not too much to recommend here.
Despite the presence of a fascinating story of lust, death and revolution, 'The Other Boleyn Girl' leaves you disappointed. The facts of history remain more interesting.