Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cranky At the Movies

Why can't Hollywood ever get it right?

Yesterday I saw The Other Boleyn Girl, the film based on Philippa Gregory's excellent historical novel about Anne and Mary Boleyn. Anne Boleyn has long been a passion of mine; fifteen years ago I wrote what may be SF's only story in which she is the protagonist ("And Wild For To Hold"). Gregory's book focuses on Mary, Anne's older sister, who was also a mistress of Henry VIII but only casually, whereas for Anne he divorced a Spanish princess, wrenched England away from Catholicism, ignited religious wars that would last for centuries, and turned himself into a madman given to beheading wives. The story has enough inherent drama for six movies, and Gregory retells it from an intriguing and psychologically complex viewpoint.

But the movie ignores all that. It substitutes gross historical inaccuracies, one-dimensional characters (Anne bad, Mary good, me Tarzan and you Jane), ridiculous plot twists. It can't get even something as simple as coloring right. Henry VIII was famous for the red-gold hair and blue eyes that Elizabeth I would inherit -- nowhere in California is there a pair of colored contacts for dark-eyed Eric Bana, let alone a box of Miss Clairol?

The reason this bothers me so much is not only that Anne's story has been badly misrepresented. It's also that Hollywood considers me -- you, all of us -- too much of idiots to follow multi-dimensional characters and historically accurate mores. Even worse, that attitude wasn't always there. The 1960's version of the Boleyn story, Anne of a Thousand Days, was far more intelligent. Rent that one instead. It doesn't shit contempt over the viewer.


Unknown said...

I was really worried that they were going to ruin this wonderful novel. Gregory is really one of the most breathtaking writers on the scene, and I worry that this monstrosity is going to make it more difficult to make her other novels into movies--and many of them should be made. Particularly, Wideacre, which I just read, and which left me breathless because it was so wicked.

I also believe that Eric Bana was destined to ruin every historical figure I've ever been fascinated by.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

For the love of Christ, Nancy, hasn't Hollywood =always= been about the fine coin? Do you imagine anyone from big time moneyman to gaffer cares about art? (Gaffer, maybe.)

That's =everywhere=! Put it in a musical context: Both Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, =wonderful= songwriters, have hit career troughs. And both record for Columbia Records (now Sony).

"Well, let's these prehistoric souls fade gently into the Void..."

Yeah. Sure. Right. Both hombres came roaring back with million-selling albums. (Dylan's last offering, MODERN TIMES, opened at #1 on the Billboard album chart.)

Well, I had a point here, but blast
me leathery hide if I recall it. But you love your old Brockport writing student anyway, right, Nancy?