If you’re looking for a slow, plodding, nap-inducing love story/ biopic then you should rush out and see “Diana” right away.
If you’re in the mood for an interesting film, which will keep you glued to the screen in anticipation, then definitely spend your time and money elsewhere.
Although, Naomi Watts gives a dazzling performance, “Diana” seems to struggle to squeeze out enough of a narrative to warrant a feature-length movie. It tells the little-known tale of the Princess of Wales’ not-so-torrid, yet hidden love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan (played with an arrogant, selfish tone by Naveen Andrews of Lostand “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” fame). What it doesn’t do is give the audience any inside information as to what made the one-time most beloved woman on the planet tick.
The film opens up at the end, so to speak. It shows Diana leaving her hotel room, recreating that iconic moment of her walk to the elevator right before her fatal Paris crash. This scene is shown with no sound the first time, with important audio added when the scene is revisited at the film’s end. I won’t spoil it for you, but this end sequence is the newest piece of information that is revealed regarding Princess Di.
The rest of the film is a jumbled mish-mash that combines “a day in the life” scenes with romantic undertones involving the aforementioned Dr. Khan. At no point in the proceedings
are the royal family represented, except for brief glimpses of her sons as she’s exiting a car. It seems as if the Royal Family has been erased from this film entirely. It’s as if they’ve disowned her and left her to fend for herself for the entirety of the movie.
And fend for herself she does. In fact, she spends most of her time doing meaningless chores and wandering around the streets of London, aimlessly looking for things to occupy her time. Her relationship with the doctor feels the same way. They barely seem like they should be friends, let alone lovers, and have very little in common with one another. He is ultra-serious about his work, but chain-smokes cigarettes and scarfs down Burger King Whoppers. He is basically made out to be the world’s biggest hypocrite.
On the other hand, Diana is depicted as being unsure of herself and shy, as she follows this cocksure blowhard around like a panting puppy dog. For a film that is called “Diana” and meant to celebrate the life and times of one of the most influential females in modern time, the titular character is showed as a weak-minded, empty-headed tart. The film even manages to make fun of Diana, regarding her ability to botch up the easiest meal in the kitchen. These days, I don’t really think a woman should be chastised because she can’t cook a dish of rigatoni marinara correctly, but we see that being done to Di here.
Experiment”) direction, it winds up being pretty uninspired. His ability to lull an audience to sleep is the asset that winds up being at the forefront. Even scenes that should have been poignant and compelling, such as Diana’s trips to hospitals to visit child victims of landmine explosions (one of her biggest champion causes) is treated with a blasé manner. As a doctor nonchalantly explains to Di that the one-armed girl lying on the gurney in front of her stepped on a mine and was missing half her insides, it becomes a scene that lacks passion and caring. It’s a shame, because this was the opposite way that Diana lived her life and she deserves better.
The film is adapted by Stephen Jeffreys (“The Libertine”) from a novel by Kate Snell called “Diana: Her Last Love,” so it’s not a surprise that her love life is what’s focused upon here. What is surprising is that there was an amazing sub-plot, that was right under the filmmakers’ noses, which accrued a great deal less of the storyline.
Diana’s involvement with the paparazzi (who are eventually and primarily responsible for
her death) is handled briefly, but this struggle manages to create some pivotal scenes that should have been given a bigger stage. While Diana is sitting in a limousine and a photographer runs up to her window, frantically snapping pictures and asking questions about her divorce with Prince Charles, she smirks as he falls by the wayside as the car speeds up.
Later on, she is shown fighting and barking at these sycophantic parasites when they follow her out of a hospital, but not enough is made of the adversarial relationship she had with the press. This would have made a much more immersive biopic than a love story between two repressed and confused individuals, but as they say in Paris, “c’est la vie.”
I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you know HOW the story ends up, which is always a major problem with biographical movies. That being said, it’s not how this particular saga ended, it’s how the subject lived in the moments leading up to her death. You would think
that the persons involved in this project had an easy task of generating an expressive and informative narrative involving one of the most interesting people to exist during the last century. Well, they did, but somehow they couldn’t deliver. It’s like driving a Ferrari in a race full of KIAs and still losing… badly.
I guess somebody should have told Watts, Andrews, Hirschbiegel and Jeffreys, that it’s not the character that ends up making the story, it’s the story that ends up making the character.
“Diana” wound up taking an inspiring and fascinating figure and somehow managed to drop this character into a dull, monotonous and lackluster story and that’s not quality filmmaking. No matter who the film is about.