Posted June 5, 2008 in The Small Screen

When Sandy Powell does the costumes for a movie, you know you’re always in for a treat. More than any other costume designer, Powell—an Oscar winner for The Aviator and Shakespeare in Love—manages to design wardrobes that feel period-authentic, but also do more than just evoke a time and place. Powell’s costumes, in subtle ways, help to tell the story. Throughout The Other Boleyn Girl, an adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novel about the infamous Anne Boleyn’s little-known sister, Mary, who was also a mistress to the nuptially prolific Henry VIII (played in this case by a brooding Eric Bana). Powell consistently swathes Mary (Scarlett Johansson, too pretty for the “growing up in the shade of her sister” role) in golden fabrics while Anne (Natalie Portman doing “period-voice English” almost as grating as Winona Ryder’s), on the other hand, starts out in a warm spring-green but progresses to emerald tones, cold blues and finally black as her ambitions become more ruthless. The subtle point seems to be that Mary remains loving and pure of heart (a point historians remain skeptical on) in spite of her family’s machinations, while Anne gives all that up for the sake of position and power. The film has its moments— mostly in performances (Kristin Scott Thomas is heartbreaking as the girls’ mother)—but even great costumes can’t quite make a familiar “price of ambition” story into something much more than ho-hum.     (Red Vaughn) 


Focus Features, 115 minutes

Release date: June 10


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