dir Oliver Hirschbiegel
scr Stephen Jeffreys
prd Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae
with Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson, Charles Edwards, Daniel Pirrie, Cas Anvar, Art Malik, Jonathan Kerrigan, Leeanda Reddy, Michael Byrne
release UK 20.Sep.13, US 1.Nov.13
13/UK 1h53

Doomed romance: Andrews and Watts

hodge james stevenson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Diana There's a clever theme to this film that's never allowed to emerge properly, as the script continually slips into romanticised melodrama. This is like fan fiction: a fantasy about what might have happened, creating long passages of intimate dialog that only one person can authenticate. But he wisely isn't talking.

In 1995, Princess Diana (Watts) is the most famous woman on earth. Separated from her husband for three years, she still hasn't moved on, living a lonely life in Kensington Palace, where she dismisses the staff so she can make beans on toast and cry herself to sleep. Then she meets heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Andrews), and is attracted to him because he never treats her like a princess. But as their relationship develops over two years, this very private man becomes increasingly annoyed by the invasive press.

Of course, the romance is doomed for another reason we know all too well. But the idea of this clearly fictionalised relationship is intriguing. It's also occasionally well-observed by director Hirschbiegel with some nicely under-stated acting from Watts. On the other hand, the script continually pushes every emotive button it can find, including dialog in which flirting characters laughably quote poets and philosophers. So scene after scene devolves into cheesy, cliched nonsense.

It doesn't help that Khan is portrayed as a cold fish. Andrews never generates any chemistry with Watts, who sulks and bats her eyes like Diana did when she was playing the media for all she's worth. Her friendships on-screen are sketchy at best, as she's surrounded by people whose only function seems to be plot exposition. At least James and Stevenson get some proper interaction with Watts; Hodge's Paul Burrell barely registers, and Anvar's Dodi Fayed is depicted as a convenient pawn in Diana's game.

This could have been an involving look at a couple trying to forge a relationship in a difficult situation, but the filmmakers instead settle for corny sentiment. Hirschbiegel's functional direction only has the odd flourish, while the script settles for the blindly obvious while creating its most important scenes without any basis in fact. It also limits Diana herself to what we already knew about her: that she was a passionate, compassionate woman who had a difficult love life and died far too young.

cert 12 themes, language 16.Sep.13

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