“You hang on to the idea of love. Because you are so good at giving love.”
To begin: a note of positivity.
When trying to do a biopic of a famous person – especially one of Diana’s reach, stature, and “importance” – most filmmakers would attempt to go the cradle to the grave route, glossing over everything in a cliff-noted manner to show the large spectrum of their life in the hopes of accessing their “humanity.” But what ends up happening is that there is so much ground to cover on the road to humanizing the legend that the human is what gets left behind and we are merely left with the legend, learning nothing but facts we could have found on Wikipedia.
Diana focuses solely on the last two years of her life and specifically her relationship with Hasnat Kahn, the man she dated before the infamous Dodi Fayed. The film at least attempts to give us an insight into one of the most famous women of the 20th Century by filling every scene with her heavily coiffed presence and painting Hasnat as her great romance that the world just won’t let her love. But, I’m afraid, it fails to make us give two bloody shakes about her “horrible” life.
If by humanizing Diana – the People’s Princess, practically a saint, an Eva Peron, murmured in the same breath as Mother Theresa – it means that we take a somewhat mythological angel and make her into a spoiled, whiny woman, then yes, Diana is humanized. But I still don’t feel after two long, excruciating hours that I know anything more about her than I already did, which was very little. Other than she likes to wander the halls of hospitals in search of people she can help. And that, surprise!, she can’t cook. (In one of the script’s more embarrassing moments, she actually confesses that she doesn’t think hamburgers can be made at home…and then orders out…).
Diana is a wandering path through the forest of her philanthropy and her romance with Hasnat (played by Naveen Andrews). She is put upon, photographed, and scrutinized when all she wants is to be left alone!
And while the real Diana seemed smart, yet naive, and very fascinating in her normality, the film (and unfortunately Watts’ portrayal) paints her as dull and listless. And not only bored, but boring. By trying to humanize her so much, the film strips her of what made her legendary.
The British press eviscerated the film calling it a “a special class of awful,” and claiming that “16 years after that terrible day in 1997, Diana has died another awful death.” I would have to agree. It has the lush cinematography and grand music of a beautiful romance, but what dreadfully lacks are a sense of purpose, timing, and point of view. This fly on the wall has died after a long buzz around bullshit. Naomi Watts’ performance is as good as it probably could have been given the abysmal script. Which isn’t saying much. It’s baffling that a figure this iconic was relegated to a script this bad.
Avoid at all costs and watch The Queen instead.
***RIP VAN WINKLE***