Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Charles Edwards, Juliet Stevenson
RunTime: 1 hr 53 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 28 November 2013
Synopsis: DIANA is a compelling portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales during the final two years of her life. The film stars British-born Academy Award® nominated actress Naomi Watts (J. EDGAR, FAIR GAME, 21 GRAMS) who assumes the leading role of the eponymous and iconic princess. Naveen Andrews, best known for his roles in THE ENGLISH PATIENT and the hit television series LOST, co-stars as Dr. Hasnat Khan. Fellow Brits Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Charles Edwards and Juliet Stevenson round out the supporting cast. Masterfully directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Academy Award® nominated for DOWNFALL), the film is based on a screenplay by the internationally acclaimed playwright Stephen Jeffreys (The Clink, Libertine). The compelling love story charts how finding true personal happiness allowed Diana to achieve her defining successes, as she evolved into a major international campaigner and humanitarian..
We feel bad for Naomi Watts. It seemed like the right thing to do, portraying the Princess of Wales in this biological drama film. A production like that is something Oscar voters would love – just look at what movies like My Week with Marilyn (2011) and The Iron Lady (2011) did for Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep. People remembered how wonderful their performances were as Marilyn Monroe and Margaret Thatcher respectively. With Watts tackling the princess everyone loved, it was supposed to be a shoo in for nominations at major film awards, but who would have expected the 113 minute movie to be critically panned by the press?
Based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book Diana: Her Last Love, the film focuses on Princess Diana’s final rite of passage during the last two years of her life. Her secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, as well as her doomed relationship with Dodi Fayed is chronicled in this lengthy drama. So what exactly is wrong about the movie featuring a badly reviewed screenplay written by Stephen Jeffreys, a British playwright known for 1994’s The Libertine, which was adapted into a screenplay filmed with Johnny Depp?
To be fair, Jeffreys’ screenplay does have potential to paint Princess Diana as a woman who wishes to be someone ordinary whilst embarking on a journey to find love. Unfortunately, a large part of the story makes viewers feel that the character is nothing more than a desperate woman searching for love in the wrong places. Behind the regal front is a woman who would give up what we deem as principle to be hopelessly in love. We are guessing this is what angered the masses who already are in love with the Princess Diana they have adored over the years.
Oliver Hirschbiegel’s (Downfall, The Experiment) latest work isn’t all that bad actually – given a considerable amount of tolerance, one would emphathise what the filmmakers are trying to do with a potentially risky project (guess it did turn out the wrong way). There are moments you feel for the protagonist, when she questions who would be eternally beside her through thick and thin. There are also a few scenes you’d feel sorry for Princess Diana and her inevitable road to self destruction.
Oscar nominated Watts gives it her all to play the princess, and her mannerisms and performance do deserve commendation (some work could have been done on her accent though). It is most unfortunate then, that Naveen Andrews (TV’s Lost) fails to deliver when placed next to the Australian British actress. It doesn’t help that he lacks the charm which Princess Diana supposedly feel head over heels for. The result is a somewhat tiresome and unconvincing love story which becomes frustrating to watch after a while. Although the film tries to inject Princess Diana’s humanitarian efforts, it comes across as intermittent breathers to break the monotony of her exasperatingly trying love life.
That doesn’t mean this is a difficult movie to sit through. It is an acceptable production, despite the scathing reviews you may have read. If anything, it’s always nice to see Watts decked in pretty clothes, something Princess Diana was known for.
(It is unfortunate and unlikely that Naomi Watts would be picking up any acting award nominations with her competent performance, no thanks to the movie’s bad reception )
Review by John Li