You would imagine that any film titled Diana and based on one of the most fascinating personalities in modern history would at least offer a peek into the mind and heart of the real person behind tabloid headlines. Well, think again! Director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s clunky film on the Princess of Wales, otherwise referred to as “the most famous woman in the world”, struggles to scratch the surface and to present any insight into her famously troubled life.
Naomi Watts nails the hair and the walk, and at many places in this film, she’s a dead ringer for Princess Diana, but it’s almost always an impression, never a flesh and blood recreation of the iconic figure. The film chronicles Diana’s relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), with whom she allegedly enjoyed a two-year romance that involved late night walks in the park, sneaky sleepovers in Kensington Palace, and dates during which the princess disguised herself under a wig. According to the story, the very private doctor called it off with Diana when their relationship became fodder for the press, and his conservative family refused to accept her as his potential wife.
Even if you disregard the evidently speculative nature of this story, it’s hard not to chuckle at the trite dialogue or cringe at the soap opera-style melodrama between characters. While Watts at least tries to sneak some subtlety into this leaden picture, occasionally pulling off the famed fragility of the people’s princess, Andrews delivers a stilted, almost smug performance as the earnest doctor swept into a whirlwind he hadn’t bargained for. The script also crassly suggests that Diana expertly manipulated the media to her own advantage, and when it does present Dodi Al Fayed on the scene, we’re told he was similarly exploited so Diana could make Hasnat jealous.
Shot like a low-budget television soap, its script lacking depth, its performances unmistakably affected, the film is a disappointment, except in those moving scenes that remind us of her selfless humanitarian work.
I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Diana. Like the cheap tabloids that routinely peddled salacious tidbits of her alleged private life, this film too is a hack job.