movie film review | chris tookey


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  Diana Review
Tookey's Rating
3 /10
Average Rating
2.87 /10
Naomi Watts , Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge
Full Cast >

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Written by: Stephen Jeffreys based on Diana: Her Last Love, by Kate Snell

Released: 2013
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK/ France/ Croatia/ Sweden/ Belgium
Length: 113

Creepy weepie will make you sleepy.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Though flamboyantly atrocious, Diana the movie is not as tacky as I’d hoped. The film is so eager not to offend that it’s tedious, with a lightweight, romantic story that fails to surprise, let alone sustain a movie that lasts nearly two hours. It has the slightness of a Mills & Boon novella, but treats the tale with ponderous solemnity, as though it were chronicling a meeting of minds between Mother Teresa and Abraham Lincoln. It’s slow and terribly, terribly dull.

The real-life, two-year affair between Princess Diana and heart-surgeon Hasnat Khan, whom she called “Mr Wonderful”, broke down in 1997 because he couldn’t stand the media intrusion. As a Pakistani Muslim, he probably didn’t fancy all those racist death threats he was getting, either. Not that they’re mentioned in the movie, which is interested in only one thing: a Princess in lurve.

Naomi Watts is the sixth and best actress to play Princess Diana, but this looks less like an Oscar bid than a befuddled attempt at career suicide. Naomi famously walked out of a Radio 5 interview in which Simon Mayo was being insufficiently deferential; what she should walked out of was her audition. Every effort has been made to dress and make her up to look like Diana, but she is at least five inches too short, nowhere near as athletic in her build, and eight years too old. What she lacks, fatally, is glamour.

Naveen Andrews resembles Bollywood’s idea of what Khan should have looked like: a dishy doc and smouldering love god, not the overworked, paunchy medic Diana admired. His casting is counter-productive. Changing him into a Vogue fashion spread makes the affair less interesting, not more.

The film is based on Diana: Her Last Love, a 2001 book by Kate Snell. Mr Khan has dismissed the book as superficial, “based on gossip” and full of inaccuracies. He also claims that Diana ended the relationship and not he, which is at odds with both book and film. Paul Burrell, Diana’s oleaginous butler (played boringly straight in the movie by Douglas Hodge), confirms the doctor’s version.

According to the film, Diana remained in love with Khan until her death, and her subsequent canoodling with Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) was designed merely to make Khan jealous.

A touch of Diana’s deviousness might have helped Stephen Jeffreys’ trite screenplay. As in all the worst soap opera, everything us upfront and melodramatic, with everyone saying exactly how they feel.

The dialogue tends towards the expository. “You’re the most famous woman in the world,” says Diana’s lover, repeatedly. To which you half-expect Diana to reply icily “I am well aware of that.”

It’s directed without panache, lightness of touch or the slightest aptitude for romance, by the German Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose best-known film, Downfall, depicted the last days of Adolf Hitler.

Diana is, of course, a much more sympathetic figure than the frenzied Fuhrer. Her kindness, concern for the helpless and highly successful campaign for the outlawing of land mines, do come across.

But even her friends have acknowledged that she could be neurotically needy and manipulative. She could also be ruthless. When her sister-in-law Sarah Ferguson revealed that she had caught a verruca from borrowing a pair of Diana’s shoes, Diana never spoke to her again.

The movie airbrushes those aspects out, which makes her less human, not more. Even though the film adores her with spaniel-like devotion, her manifestly unsuccessful attempts to manipulate the media become less and less attractive, and her leading on of Dodi leaves her looking not romantic, but cruel.

I was left thinking that the only truly tragic element in the film was not her doomed romance with a heart surgeon, but her hubristic belief that she was clever enough to manipulate the media, a recklessness that resulted in her premature death. If the film had been about that, it might have been a lot more interesting.

Royal-watchers will be disappointed at how little the royals figure in the movie. William and Harry barely appear at all, and the rest of the royal family is kept offscreen, even Prince Charles.
Diana is left to fester with resentment at the Windsors, which is understandable. Much less attractive is the extent to which she appears detached from William and Harry. By obsessing about her love life, the film makes her alienatingly distant from her own children.

This film is conclusive evidence that the bottom of the royal barrel has been scraped once too often. This ill-judged exercise in celebrity worship never succeeds in being moving, or even involving. It’s not even enjoyably bad.

Personally, I would have found more entertainment in David Icke’s delightfully outlandish claim about the royal family, which is that they are all 12 foot lizard people masquerading in human form. Now that, I’d like to see dramatized.

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