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Review: Diana – Fine acting, but film is a “royal” mess

Posted by on November 8, 2013 – 7:45 am

DianaIf you are expecting the new film, Diana, to be an exploration of the life of the ill-fated Princess of Wales, you are only partially correct. The movie only covers her last two (post Prince Charles) years and focuses mostly on her relationship with Pakistani heart-surgeon, Dr. Hasnat Khan. It is the awkward story of a woman who is admired by everyone, but who desperately needs real love from someone, and it’s probably not the bio-pic you were hoping for.

It’s weird that even though I’m not a fan of “The Royals” and generally view the rich and famous ilk with contempt, I still remember where I was when Princess Diana died in a car crash on August 31, 1997. Her death was like the Kennedy assassination in that her sudden and violent end felt like a punch to “civilization’s” gluttonous stomach. The Princess was loved and admired throughout the world for her grace and charity and as this film mentions more than once, she was the most popular woman in the world.

Helmed by German director Oliver Hirschbiegel and based on the biography, Diana – Her Last Love, by Kate Snell, Diana the film is bookended by sequences that depict her final exit from a Paris hotel where she has a premonition that something bad is going to happen and reaches out for help one last time before her death. Who knows how this all actually went down, but nevertheless these bits are artfully filmed by cinematographer Rainer Klausmann and they are the best parts of the movie.

DianaUnfortunately, the meat of this film is the on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again secret romance between Diana and Khan. Really, whether it’s true or not, this gets old after the first break-up. There might be an interesting story in this relationship, but it’s not told in this overly long movie.

To make matters worse, when Diana is at her best, during her humanitarian efforts for children, AIDS research and to ban landmines, I felt the film inadvertently portrayed her as more of a shallow, bored, rich opportunist than a sincere and caring philanthropist, which is a disservice to the real person’s charitable accomplishments. I think director Hirschbiegel means well, but as they say, the road to Hades is paved with good intentions.

The film also hints (maybe unintentionally, maybe not) that Diana was actually encouraging the paparazzi that hounded her to her death, in an effort to rub her fallback relationship with Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) in Dr. Khan’s face. True or not, like most of this film it didn’t really feel honest.

DianaOn the plus side, Naomi Watts delivers a great performance as Diana, and it’s a shame that her efforts were not part of a better movie. Naveen Andrews (who will always be Sayid Jarrah from the Lost television series to me) is also good as Hasnat Khan, but despite their fine performances there is never any chemistry between these two actors. The direction by Hirschbiegel together with the script by Stephen Jeffreys miserably fails these two performers.

If you are enamored with the romantic life of the Royals and the late Princess Diana in particular, then you might find this film a lot more interesting than I did, then again you may dislike it altogether. I still think there’s an intriguing biographical movie to be made about Diana’s life, but this isn’t it.
Grade: 4/10

Photos © eOne Films