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A film benefiting from none of the charm of its otherwise talented star and director.
On paper, DIANA had everything going for it: the biopic had lined up one of the finest actresses working today for the title role (Naomi Watts), and paired her with a serious-minded director (Oliver Hirschbiegel) who had turned Adolf Hitler's final days into a gripping, powerful drama (Downfall)... there was even a precedent set by The Iron Lady, which proves that a biopic can be mediocre and/or take liberties with its subject and still provide room to think, feel, and appreciate the pure strength and power of the performances on display. Not so with DIANA, sadly.
Watts plays the tragically doomed people's princess just as her marriage to Prince Charles is properly disintegrating. Left with a husband in name but not in fact, Diana tries to figure out how to redefine herself independently of her estranged Royal Family. The answer, apparently, is to fall in love with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), who inspires her to do more and better with the media attention lavished so excessively upon her.
The senseless tragedy of Diana's death in a car accident, hunted down by media to her very end, looms large over the entire film, as well it should - but it's not the only tragedy that befalls it. That dubious honour belongs to Stephen Jeffreys' script, which is full of unrealistic characters and ponderous dialogue. For all of Watts' valiant efforts, there isn't much wit and soul to her Diana. The cunning ingenuity she displays in her battle against the Royal Palace in the first ten minutes of the film fades away rather too quickly, leaving her to be defined almost entirely in terms of a soppy, soapy love story that never really takes flight.
Any depth of character or charitable intent that she's given is connected to her growing love for Hasnat: a reductive and regrettable approach if ever there was one. It doesn't help that Hasnat is portrayed in so frustrating a way. Andrews is just as hamstrung by the script as Watts, forced to deliver painfully awkward and stilted lines while playing some kind of spoilt man-child who alternates between throwing tantrums and pleading for Diana to understand the inexplicable predicament he believes himself to be in.
Anyone searching for depth and complexity here will be sorely disappointed. DIANA provides few, if any, real insights into a public figure who suffered some of the greatest slings, arrows and presumptions attributable to media speculation and persecution. Rather than clearing away some of those cobwebs and claptrap, this melodramatic biopic adds to them: reducing a complex, troubled human being trapped in extraordinary circumstances to the shallow, unsympathetic female lead in a badly-written, utterly banal romantic drama. If there were a greater tragedy than Diana's untimely death, it's the fact that she's forced to live on in this film.
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