The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Diana | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Diana

The final years of the late British princess.

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Juliet Stevenson, Art Malik

It's 1995, and Diana (Watts), Princess of Wales, has been separated from her husband, Prince Charles, for several months. While visiting a London hospital, she meets Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Andrews) and immediately falls for him. The two embark on a tumultuous affair, but eventually the tabloid press discovers their secret, driving a wedge between them.
'Diana' is a film everyone's mother probably wants to see, which is just as well, as it's a movie only a mother could love.
Early on, Diana confesses a love of the UK soap operas 'Coronation Street' and 'Eastenders'. It would seem it's a love shared by the film's director, Hirschbiegel, and his writer Stephen Jeffreys, as their simplistic storytelling would embarrass the writers of such shows. Focusing on the relationship between Diana and Khan results in the sort of cheesy love story normally reserved for the pages of Mills and Boon novels (misunderstood Princess meets dedicated heart surgeon). Jeffreys' idea of building character is to have Diana love classical music (we see her banging out the greatest hits of Johann and Ludwig on her piano in several moments of woe) while Khan is a jazz fan (he constantly tells Diana to follow the lead of the great jazzmen and "improvise").
For the first half hour or so, I was having a blast, cracking up at unintentionally hilarious lines of dialogue; corkers like "You don't perform surgery, surgery performs you". The over the top acting from background extras seems like something out of an 'Airplane' type spoof movie and had me on the floor at times.
Hirschbiegel elevates his subject to mythical status; men swoon in Diana's presence and issue cat-calls (I don't wish to sound cruel but, while Watts might attract such attention, the real life Diana wasn't likely to turn too many male heads), the mothers of stricken Bosnian sons weep like they've been visited by Jesus and pubs come to a standstill whenever she appears onscreen.
The film is set in the final two years of the princess' life, between 1995 and '97. Hirschbiegel seems to care little for period authenticity, as his film is full of the tropes of our current internet age. When Khan asks Diana how he can get in touch, her reply is "Oh, I'm just like everyone else, I have a mobile." Everyone might have a mobile phone today, but they certainly didn't back in the mid nineties. Khan learns of Diana's death by looking out his apartment window and seeing the lights come on in almost every room in the opposite building. It's 4am. Even today, when everyone possesses a cell-phone, how many of us learn about big news events in the middle of the night? The world discovered the news of Diana's death over breakfast the next morning, not minutes after it occurred, as portrayed here. During a scene in which a hotel worker worker is bribed by a paparazzi photographer, we see euro notes change hands, four years before the currency came into circulation.
Given her status in history, I assume the film-makers set out to portray Diana in a positive light, but any attempts to make her seem like an independent woman taking charge of her life instead see her come across as a manipulative sociopath who throws herself at any man who happens to hail from the Indian subcontinent, neglecting her children in the process (William and Harry are nowhere to be seen).
Nine years ago, Hirschbiegel gave us 'Downfall', one of the most acclaimed films of recent times, which makes this mess all the more baffling. Watts is one of the best actresses of her generation, but I fear it'll take some time for her to recover from this. Last week, while promoting this film, she walked out of an uncomfortable BBC interview. She should have walked out of the audition.

Eric Hillis