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Diana - Review

Diana

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

GERMAN director Oliver Hirschbiegel won global acclaim for Downfall, his excellent film about the last days of Hitler. Sadly, he now looks set to receive universal derision for his woeful Diana, which examines the last years in the life of the Princess of Wales.

Designed to offer a compassionate insight into Diana’s love affair with British born Pakistani surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan and how it gave her new resolve in her humanitarian work, the film instead plays like a bad rom-com that rides roughshod over the memory of The People’s Princess.

Naomi Watts plays Diana with reverential care but seldom comes close to convincing in the role, while former Lost and The English Patient star Naveen Andrews is Khan and similarly unconvincing.

Stephen Jeffreys’s screenplay, based a lot around Kate Snell’s book Diana: Her Last Love, is at pains to point out that these were two soul mates thwarted by circumstance and the pressures of fame. But given that Khan, himself, has dismissed the book and distanced himself from the film, it should come as no surprise that what ensues is just imagined and, well, just plain painful.

And far from examining the complexities and contradictions unearthed by Martin Bashir in the now infamous Panorama interview that provides one of the film’s few highlights, Hirschbiegel’s film would rather exist in the imagined romance and deliver sappy and/or pretentious dialogue on the nature of love that makes Richard Curtis seem like a poet.

It’s here that poetic licence comes into play and where controversy could have reared its head given its interpretation of emotions and motivations (particularly in Diana’s attitude towards her subsequent relationship with Dodi Fayed).

But even then, this is biopic making for dummies featuring scenes of Diana cooking baked beans or confessing to a love of TV’s Casualty to underline her everywoman status, or donning wigs and smuggling herself in and out of places to secure anonymity. It’s too slight and too ridiculous to offend.

Key moments in Diana’s professional life are faithfully recreated but these merely serve to throw a sharper focus upon what works and what doesn’t.

But it’s hard not to view the whole endeavour as a folly from the outset, and harder still to imagine why anyone dared get involved. Watts arguably has the most to lose and her performance looks and feels awkward throughout.

Indeed, it’s that same sense of awkwardness that’s ultimately shared by viewers as there are too many scenes that leave you cringing with embarrassment. Far from putting forward a telling portrait of Diana, this reduces her to a laughing stock and – worse still – makes it difficult to care.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 113mins
UK Release Date: September 20, 2013