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STUDIO Entertainment One
RUNNING TIME 113 Minutes
- Bonus – Interviews with Cast & Crew
- Diana Fashion Photo Booklet
“You’ve Got Mail but dramatic. And with Princess Diana. Also, nothing like You’ve Got Mail at all.”
Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge
Diana Spencer (Naomi Watts) is a recent divorcee. She can’t see her kids, she’s overshadowed by her ex-husband, and her life has made her isolated. Also, she’s a princess. All of this changes when she meets Dr. Hasmat Khan, a successful heart surgeon. Together, they navigate the waters of maintaining a relationship while being in the looming shadow of Diana’s legacy.
This movie is a big surprise. I hadn’t heard much about it except for the fact that it has Naomi Watts in it. I had also heard it had a pretty big critical drubbing when screened. I was expecting standard biopic drivel about how fabulous a person Diana was and seeing a rags to riches story.
What I did not expect was a film about the challenges of relationships over work. Of all the things that one would have done over Diana, the filmmakers chose a fascinating portion of her life to chronicle and it pays off. Diana does run into some traps of biopic filmmaking, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Instead of a grand, majestic film, we have a small-ish character drama about a divorced woman that knows what she wants, but can’t get it due to societal pressures.
Naomi Watts handles Diana perfectly. This is a tremendous performance, transitioning effortlessly from the regal woman to rambunctious blonde in no time. She blends in wonderfully, creating a full-bodied character that never once calls itself off the screen. It would have been so easy, as there are several times where the film stops to show how amazing a person Diana is (like I said, the film isn’t without it’s downfalls). Instead of turning it into a saccharine performance, Watts delivers actual humanity, crafting lovely subtleties to these overly grand scenes. When Diana stops her entourage in order to tend to a woman grieving on the side of the road, the only reason the scene works is because we buy that Diana is a person that is actually motivated to stop the entourage. Watts’s performance doesn’t handle Diana with kiddie gloves. Instead, she and the filmmakers reveal a fascinating, complex woman who both embraced and turned away her royal connections.
Coupled with this is Naveen Andrews as Dr. Hasmat Khan, Diana’s secret lover. Andrews’s Khan is strong, yet soft; mature, yet ornery; strong willed, but easily wounded. While Diana is our grounding, Khan is our connection to the real world. It’s also a multi-faceted portrayal. Khan could have easily been one dimensional, especially with a subject matter that could have been as Harlequin as what this movie is about. Khan is so grounded and so down to earth that you actually feel his struggle. It’s a shame that Andrews isn’t in more films, as his portrayal of a man overwhelmed by the world is truly a marvelous one.
One of the questions I kept asking myself is would this film be interesting if Diana wasn’t a real person. Would I still have this fascination with our protagonist if this was a completely made up character? I really do like this film, but I do feel like Diana has the added level of being an exposé into one of the most interesting people of the 20th century. Of course, this may be an unfair criticism. No one asks if Saving Private Ryan would have been as potent if it had involved a fictional war or if Good Night and Good Luck would have been as riveting if it hadn’t involved Edward R. Murrow. The real characters are intertwined with the narrative and I suppose this is the nature of a behind-the-scenes film such as this one.
The filmmakers do an unbelievable job at conveying the claustrophobia that comes with fame. While I deal with the paparazzi problem on a daily basis, it still helps that there is this pervasive sense that everyone knows who Diana is. From the obvious steps of putting photographers in every scene to every single person looking at Diana in the background, even when out of focus, the film strives to indicate the isolation of being a walking goddess.
The one true umbrage I take with the film is Diana’s death. I understand that there’s no easy way to deal with this, but, as it happens, the event happens off screen and without context. Instead of driving home some greater thematic points, such as Diana’s isolation as royalty and that exacerbating certain conditions, her death feels more perfunctory than anything. When it does happen, there is no meaning. It’s just a checkmark on the list of things that has to happen, which is never a good reason to do have a scene. With that, the film ends on a hollow note instead of ringing out any messages regarding her life.
That caveat aside, I recommend this movie highly. It’s a fascinating look into a world we don’t often see into and a better movie than it has any right to be. Often avoiding any Lifetime TV traps, Diana opts to tell a real, human story with real poignancy about today’s society.
There are only four interviews with four of the actors, all of which test the actors’ acting abilities in making the typical EPK content interesting. It’s absolutely painful to watch and makes me sad. Also, there’s a fashion pamphlet that comes with the Blu-Ray, which is absolutely fantastically hypocritical to what the movie ultimately states.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars