Diana, Princess of Wales was an icon, adored by the public and renowned for her high-profile charity work. Yet there was a darker, more manipulative side to her that constantly threatened to burst that innocent, bighearted bubble. It’s a shame, then, that Diana, acclaimed director Olivier Hirschbiegel’s biopic, abandons those intriguing suggestions altogether, instead producing a miscalculated, cringe-inducing and ultimately banal film that’s far too buttoned up for its own good.
Separated from Prince Charles for three years, Diana (Naomi Watts) lives a quiet, lonely life in Kensington Palace. Her world changes, however, when she has a chance encounter with Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), a talented and focused heart surgeon. The two embark upon a covert love affair that’s tested not only by their widely different backgrounds, but also by the invasive press lurking around every corner.
Hirschbiegel received wide acclaim for Downfall, his tense and detailed depiction of Adolf Hitler’s final days. Diana, on the other hand, is a much less intricate and far more tepid and melodramatic affair. With a script from Stephen Jeffreys, based in part on Kate Snell’s controversial novel Diana: Her Last Love, the film is painted with such broad brush strokes that it completely fails to offer up anything of note, contestable or not.
It doesn’t help that the performances delivered by Watts and Andrews are neither serious nor realistic, and there’s absolutely no chemistry between them. Though there relationship was likely under immense pressure, none of that is conveyed successfully on screen. The same too can be said for Diana’s murky side, which is only ever so briefly touched upon towards the end. In fact, there’s little in terms of realism whatsoever.
To Hirschbiegel’s credit, however, he does possess a keen eye as a director, and some keenly executed camera shots do well to highlight how restricted Diana’s life and sense of freedom was by the media. But that’s about the only genuinely commendable element for the too-long 113 minute run time. The rest is, at best, a bland melodrama that’s unconvincing in its efforts to substantiate something that wasn’t – and never will be – proved to be true.