Judge Brett Cullum wonders where the real Diana is amidst all this melodrama.
The legend is never the whole story.
It was inevitable somebody would eventually make a film about Princess Diana and her tragic early demise in a Paris tunnel being chased by paparazzi. Diana strives to give us the last days of the People's Princess, but it struggles to figure out exactly what it wants to say. Naomi Watts (King Kong) looks striking and sometimes convincing, but the script posits some uneasy statements that may not satisfy many fan of the real Diana, Princess of Wales.
Facts of the Case
This film concentrates solely on Diana (Watts) right after her separation from Prince Charles, so it deals only with the last two years of her life. She is seen as lonely, isolated, and ruthlessly hounded by the British press any time she steps outside of her front door. She rarely gets to see her sons, and sits all alone in what appears to be a well-appointed gilded cage somewhere in the bowels of Kensington Palace. She has a chance meeting with a Pakistani heart surgeon (Naveen Andrews, Lost), and immediately feels a connection. Dr. Hasnat Khan here is seen as Diana's true love after the split, and even her later dalliance with Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar, Source Code) is only to make Khan jealous. The film ends as expected with her tragic death in a car with Dodi. In essence, it is a love story between Diana and Hasnat Khan, and little else than that.
Diana, Princess of Wales, deserves better than this film Diana. It is well-photographed, well-acted, and well-intentioned, but it simplifies things far too much never capturing the unique charisma the real women had. While Naomi Watts is a great actress, I never get a sense of her actually disappearing into her role. Helen Mirren's The Queen set the bar far too high for recreating royals on the screen, and Watts just can't quite get there. She certainly does her damnedest, but comes up far short of capturing the right spark always seeming more imitative than inspired. The onscreen relationship with Naveen Andrews works fine enough, but we never buy Watts as Princess Diana.
There are some troubling assertions made by the film's script that may bother viewers who are looking for a true depiction of the historical figure. First up is that her love affair with Hasnat Khan seems like true love, but every other relationship is downgraded through this. It makes it look like Dodi Fayed is merely a pawn to make Kahn jealous, and it seems a little juvenile to boil this down to that kind of machination. In the final reel, Diana tips off the paparazzi as to where she is going in hopes of fueling this jealousy. So in doing this, she has orchestrated her own death to make someone green with envy. That's not all that flattering, and I doubt that anything was as simple as that in real events.
Diana (Blu-ray) makes the most of what is most compelling about Diana in presenting the film's 1.85:1/1080p color and costumes in their best possible light. Though the image is a bit drained at times, the visuals look realistic enough and have a good sense of depth and vibrancy. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio does quite well with the soundtrack which is mostly driven by classical music and piano. Dialogue is front and center, and surround effects are kept to a minimum. They are effective when need be though adding atmosphere and punctuation. Extras include interviews with all the major players from the cast and crew. They seem to yammer on and on about how they wanted to bring to the surface the "real" Diana.
The production design and the costumes are amazing and they make this affair feel more royal. Included with Diana (Blu-ray) is a "fashion of Diana" booklet which highlights how well they recreated a lot of famous outfits. The recreation of Kensington Palace is also quite impressive, and the details of her physical world do seem spot on. It's a gorgeous film, and for that maybe it is worth a look despite all the shortcomings.
I'm not really sure what Diana wants us to walk away with. It portrays the late Princess of Wales as lost, cloying, manipulative, and naïve about the ways of the world. It makes us root for her to end up with Hasnat Khan, but of course delivers the ending we all know too well. It shows Diana doing nice charity work, but mainly we see a woman who isn't sure of herself or her relationships. Could this be the real Diana, Princess of Wales, or is this simply a dramatic tool to create a nice neat story?
I suspect the real woman was more complicated than what film could project. Poor Naomi Watts is tasked with the impossible, resurrecting one of the world's most loved women in British royalty. Diana is an impossible character to capture, and this film proves it, unfortunately.
Guilty of boiling down a complex figure into a simple Lifetime movie
with a big clothes budget. Diana is not the Princess we know.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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