Thursday, November 7, 2013


Oy vey!  The dreary and unintentionally absurd Diana stars Naomi Watts as the People's Princess and chronicles the last two years of her life.  Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (who ventured into similar terrain with the Academy Award nominated Downfall about the waning years of Adolph Hitler) and scripted by Stephen Jeffries, Diana is a miscalculation from the start, with its made-for-trashy-television approach and unsubtle staging of the demise of one of the most beguiling and enigmatic creatures of the twentieth century.  The film begins with Diana dithering about in her Parisian hotel room, a sense of dread swells the soundtrack, as if she knew.  Well we know whats about to happen; it was one of the most historic events of the last thirty years.  As she careens down the hotel corridors, she stops, the camera stops to look back.  It's meant to be an artistic moment of reflection, but the effect is simply ridiculous.  Oh the foreboding!

Yet this is a love story, and the title cards bring us back two years earlier to another confusing part of the Princess Diana puzzle, just before the divorce heard round the world from Prince Charles became final and the world was as enraptured to the dramatics of the royal family in a more singularly trashy way.  Aware her marriage is but up, but in no position to call it officially kaput, the film posits that Diana had one last shot at happiness and romance with a dapper Pakistani heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan (played by Lost actor Naveen Andrews.)  The two meet cute in a traditionally Hollywood moment at a hospital when a friend of the late princess falls ill and a grand romance develops.

Except that its dull and passionless and pedestrian even by the confines of the squarest of romantic comedies.  That fault lies in the sillier-than-thou dialogue seemingly composed of outdated Hallmark greeting cards and makeshift sorts of happenstances that set to inform both Diana and Hasnat as to why a truly happy union could never actually occur.  Whether comprised of fact or revisionist history or whatsits, the films posits that the two were inseparably besotted with one another, rendering some of the most ridiculous courses of actions for Diana, one of the most elegant women of her day or any, to set forth to keep that magic alive.

The true camp hilt of the film finds Diana donning a black wig to secretly meet up with the press shy Hasnat for public carousing.  The idea itself is particularly asinine that one of the most famous faces in the world could cavort publicly without any ado by simply strapping on a cheap brunette wig (Jennifer Garner in her Alias days-like) and not trigger any sort of attention is risible in it of its self, but the sequences themselves are another sort entirely-- a scene that shows Diana walking down a popular street in glamorous attire to the persistent hooting from gentleman callers in another thing entirely; another showcases her bogeying to the Pet Shop Boys for needed reflection with affectionate gay men.  The whole production might have fared better as a cheaply produced Lifetime movie double-billed with the Lindsay Lohan debacle Liz and Dick-- bonus points for to the marketing maestro who can concoct some sort of icon drinking game to go along with it.

Yet what's truly a disservice to late near Princess is the way that the script calls for her to behave as a bratty teenager in heat over every relationship bump.  Surely, it would be difficult for a person of such notoriety to be "normal" but the extremity of which Diana is presented is particularly insulting, nearly turning her into a silly stalker.  Watts, a performer who in her best parts captures a woman's guile, fragility and strength with equal beats simply appears lost, pitching her Diana as a naive, lovesick puppy.  The framework outside of her portrayal doesn't do her any favors, especially when given slightly creepy dialogue like, "I'm a princess...I'm used to getting what I want," as a plea for adorable-ness.

It was clearly written in the stars that Diana was a dud, and once the reviews came out following its UK release a few weeks back, it seemed to settle that and I wish there was something to see beyond those early dark clouds, but despite a particular polish over the movie, there's simply nothing utterly cinematic about.  The People's Princess deserved a far sharper film.  D 

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