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Review: DIANA


DIANA , UK/ FRANCE/ SWEDEN/ BELGIUM , 2013 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for brief strong language, some sensuality and smoking

DIANA, the unnecessary tale of the Princess of Walesí last true love, is a vapid, banal, and superficial exercise in cheap voyeurism. The object of Dianaís affections, heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan, is portrayed as a man who, above all, cherished his privacy and his profession, so much so that Dianaís celebrity status made their relationship impossible. That and his disapproving mother back in Pakistan. To make a film about them seems in bad taste to say the least. To make a bad film about them is a cosmic joke of epic proportions.

Purporting to get the real story of her last two years of life on this planet, the film is stymied by an episodic structure that relies heavily on expository soliloquies, and an assumption that we will immediately know who Oona is, that kind-faced woman (Geraldine James) who talks soothingly to Diana (Naomi Watts) while also sticking acupuncture needles into her toe. Itís shorthand for the retinue of alternative healers Diana employed after her separation from the Prince of Wales. Itís also a necessary set-up for how Diana will meet Dr. Khan (Naveen Andrews). That would be running into him when rushing to Oonaís side when the latterís husband is taken ill. Diana canít take her eyes off the serious-minded doctor who is not bowled over by her celebrity. What follows is what amounts to a teenage crush, as Diana throws herself at the doctor, the doctor responds coolly, and the guards at Kensington Palace, Dianaís domicile, make jokes about the antics they witness.

The most famous woman in the world is here also the loneliest, and one of the most manipulative. When not talking the good doctor, she is seen in a carefully rehearsing her responses in a mirror in preparation for her notorious BBC interview wherein she trashed Prince Charles, her soon-to-be ex-husband. She is seen dialing up paparazzi when she wants to send a message, either to the world press about land mines, or to make Dr. Khan jealous when things go south for their relationship. She is also seen struggling with the microwave in order to impress him with a home-cooked meal, and tidying up his one-bedroom flat after a spat.

Watts, an actress of considerable power, plays her part as though she were afraid of mussing her hair. As the love of Dianaís life, Naveen Andrews unaccountabley tamps down any charisma with which he might be afflicted, and plays his part as though he were in another room patiently waiting for his cue. There is no spark, much less fire between the two, a sad omission in a flick that wants them to be victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Director Olive Hirschbiegel, he of the superb DOWNFALL about Hitlerís last days in his bunker, brings a few stylish moves to the proceedings, emphasizing the way Diana didnít quite understand the consequences of playing the media and thereby making her even more of a target. Alas, the script, a stilted compilation of predictability, is beyond any help.

DIANA makes the late royal seem shallow rather than the complexity for which it strives. It becomes in the end the one thing Diana herself never was. Dull.

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