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September 30, 2014

Diana (2013)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Actors: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Juliet Stevenson

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Synopsis: The last two years in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales (Naomi Watts), starting with her unlikely on-off romance to Pakistani heart surgeon, Asnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), and then her dalliance with international playboy Dodhi Al-Fayed, culminating in the fateful Paris car crash of 31st August 1997.

Review: Oliver Hirschbiegel’s fiercely condescended Diana is a work that perhaps deserves a touch more objective analysis over the wildfire of instantaneous derision it generated on its release. In a sense, the film takes a not entirely unintuitive notion of shading its story of Diana’s late romance to Pakistani heart surgeon, Asnat Khan, as a ‘Mills and Boon’ affair to out the pathos in this woefully cosseted and unconstructed woman.

It’s in the execution of its storytelling that the film falls short. First, although one can get slightly bogged down in the parlour game of over-analysing the casting decisions over certain actors playing famous historical figures, it’s unquestionable that Naomi Watts is the wrong choice to play Diana (and this is coming from an avowed Naomi Watts fan – take my review of Mulholland Drive for example). Despite the superficial costume and make-up job, Watts is a good ten years older than Diana was meant to be at the time of the story, and Watts has a more rounded face and open presence than Diana’s familiar angular, awkward and guarded persona. Thus Watts works overtime to inhabit Diana, to ‘impersonate’ her if you like, and it creates a clinical, slightly phoney effect – much like the leaden dialogue given to her and the character of Asnat Khan by the screenwriters. As for Khan, though I’m not privy to all the facts, I find it hard to believe that an eminent Consultant Surgeon at a top London hospital, who was able to attract Diana, was living in pokey digs above a row of shops, and that he’d take Diana on dates to places like the local Chicken Cottage fast food store! Sure, I think Diana may have been attracted to the relative normality of Khan’s life after being married to the future King of England, but I think this film’s flight of fancy in taking Diana to quasi-Sex and the City, ‘girl about town’ territory goes a touch too far. (September 2014)

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