PLOT: A glimpse into the last two years of Princess Dianas (Naomi Watts) life, from her separation from Prince Charles, through a relationship she has with a down-to-earth Pakistani heart surgeon, Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews).
REVIEW: Its hard to imagine another big-screen biopic of such a beloved figure as Princess Diana going as disastrously wrong as Oliver Hirschbiegels DIANA. Prior to its UK release, this was tipped as a hot title in the years Oscar race, with Naomi Watts showing up on the shortlist of many top Oscar gurus as a potential best actress nominee. Suffice to say that wont be happening as- to be generous- DIANA is Lifetime TV movie of the week fare, and without someone like Watts in the lead, would probably never make it to theaters.
Basically, Dianas post-divorce life has been reimagined as a soap opera that probably owes as much to someone like seventies trash tycoon Harold Robbins as it does to anything that actually happened in the Princess of Wales life. Here, the peoples princess is reimagined as a love-starved jet-setter, who goes all weak in the knees for Andrews heart surgeon, although its never clear why.
Clearly, Diana was a complicated person, but her romance with Khan (and there really was such a fellow) is never fleshed-out. Andrews, who can be a brilliant actor when given the opportunity (LOST, THE ENGLISH PATIENT) plays Khan like a bit of a boor, quickly losing his temper anytime it seems like he may lose a degree of privacy through his relationship with Diana. Such is life when youre dating the worlds most famous woman. As for Watts, shes good at making puppy dog eyes at Andrews, but their chemistry is just awful. Watching her and Andrews as they frolic around in Wales on a supposedly idyllic romantic interlude is unintentionally hilarious. The two are so bad together it feels like theyre on an awkward first date that just wont end.
One hesitates to blame either of them though, as neither has a thing to work with. The script, by playwright Stephen Jeffreys never manages to make their affair seem compelling. Potentially interesting facets of her life, such as her relationship with her sons William and Harry, or her tense relationship with the Royal Family, are completely ignored. It feels like everyone involved was desperate to make a film that would get the Royal Familys blessing, although given the two-dimensional portrait of Diana, its tough to imagine this effort will be appreciated.
DIANA gets especially bad towards the end, where its suggested that Dianas complicity with the paparazzi, who the movie suggests Diana used to make Khan jealous, led to her tragic death. The film is bookended by sequences showing Diana, immediately before her death in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel in Paris, waiting in a hotel, gazing at her four mobiles, hoping for a call from Khan. Its soap opera stuff, and no better than the various TV movies that were rushed out in the aftermath of her death in 97. Hardly awards caliber stuff.Whats especially tragic about the film is how much of a misstep this is for the once brilliant Hirschbiegel. In addition to his Hitler saga DOWNFALL (which spawned a never ending series of parodies on YouTube), he also directed the superb DAS EXPERIMENT (not to be confused with the awful Adrien Brody remake), before suffering through the troubled production of THE INVASION. DIANA doesnt seem worthy of his talents, nor those of his stars Watts and Andrews. DIANA really is a movie thats best forgotten. The only award it might win is a razzie.
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