It occurs to me that some of the dialogue between Anne and Mary’s parents in the first thing really supports my theory that the movie meant to show us that Mary was Good and Anne was Not.
The girls are playing in a field, and Mr. Boleyn tells Mrs. Boleyn that someone has proposed to Anne. Mrs. Boleyn says, “Oh, that’s great,” and Mr. Boleyn says, “Nah, Anne can do better. I offered them Mary instead.”
“But Mary is the kinder and the fairer of the two,” says Mrs. Boleyn.
“But those traits do not bring greatness,” says Mr. Boleyn. “Anne is more cunning and more ambitious. She will achieve much and truly elevate our family.”
As they watch, Anne tackles her sister and brother, winning their game.
(Note: all of this is paraphrasing from memory)
Initially it seems Mr. Boleyn is correct, since Mary’s goodness and beauty attract the king but cannot keep them in the face of Anne’s cunning and ambition, but in one of the closing scenes, Mrs. Boleyn is vindicated.
“My children!” she cries (or something to that effect.) “What have you done to my children? My daughters have publicly whored themselves, shaming our family, and now Anne and Brother-With-A-Forgettable-Name
are dead! You have killed them and destroyed our family by encouraging Anne’s ambition! If you had married Anne off to Merchant-Boy and kept her in the countryside, Mary would have remained the king’s mistress, and he would have remained loyal to her for his son’s sake. We would have been comfortably in his good favor forever! Or if we had never done any of this, we could have lived comfortably by our own means. But now we are ruined! And I reiterate, it’s because you didn’t restrain Anne, That Ambitious Bitch!”
Mr. Boleyn hangs his head, accepting his guilt.
(Okay, this is from memory and embellished. A bit.)
But the point is, Mrs. Boleyn is shown to have been entirely right. Mary’s goodness is to be valued more than Anne’s ambition.
On an only-slightly related note, it occurs to me that we never see Anne have sex. I have no idea why. We see Mary about to have sex with her new Merchant-Boy husband, and we hear Mary talk about it later, and we see Mary have sex with Henry more than once, and we hear Mary talk about it later more than once, but we never see Anne have sex with anyone. Anne consummates her marriage to Otherwise-Engaged-Rich-Guy entirely off-camera, and even when she’s regularly sleeping with Henry, she’ll rant to Mary about it but we never get a glimpse. The only time we see “sex” is when Henry rapes her, which isn’t sex because it’s rape. (Sex implies consent. She says “Stop, you’re hurting me! Henry!” and then cries. This does not a consent make.)
Is it that we can’t see Anne enjoying herself? Maybe her perceived frigidity is so central to her characterization that showing her having sex would seem out of character. But they could show a frigid, “dutiful” sex (like Mary and Merchant-Boy) if that characterization is too important to break…is that what they imagined they were doing with that rape scene?
Actually, after he and Anne get together, we hardly see them together at all. Well, really, we hardly see Henry at all; we watch the breakdown of their relationship entirely through Anne’s increasingly-frantic talks with Mary. It’s effective storytelling, because Anne is so distressed that I sympathized immediately, but…their problems were fundamentally Henry’s fault. He was overly suspicious of her (possibly because he was being unfaithful himself/ seriously contemplating it.) He was obsessed with controlling her, even though he fell in love with her because of her independence (a situation sure to make both of them miserable.) She just wanted to be his wife and bear his children (on pain of destruction or death). By focusing the camera entirely on her as the marriage falls apart, it makes it feel like its failure is her fault. We needed to see more of Henry screwing up.
Actually, that goes for the movie as a whole: we needed to see more of Henry screwing up, and less of Anne’s Ambitious, Bitchy Plots failing.