Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Diana

16 comments
Naomi Watts captures Princess Diana well but her performance is let down by the film's script.
Naomi Watts captures Princess Diana well but her performance is let down by the film's script.

Naomi Watts does a good job portraying Diana, Princess of Wales, in this biopic about the last two years of the Princess' life. Watts has mastered Diana's lilting walk and shy head tilt, and wears her immaculately blow-dried hair and lashings of mascara well. But as well as Watts captures her likeness, it's not enough to elevate this melodramatic drama above what we'd expect from a polished television mini-series.

Taking on the role of "the most famous woman in the world" was always going to be risky for Watts, but the real risk was a script that focused on her relationship with reclusive and private London-based, Pakistani-born cardiologist Dr Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews).

Where Stephen Frears' The Queen featured an intelligent and witty script and performances, Stephen Jeffreys' script for Diana manages to take itself very seriously while also having the tone of a Mills and Boon novel.

In these gossip-obsessed times it's easy to see the appeal of using her love life as a means of revealing the "real Diana", who is a lonely woman struggling to find her identity and purpose after a very public separation from her husband.

The problem is that Diana's two-year romance with Khan makes for dull material. It's a relationship centred on a single conversation, with director Oliver Hirschbiegel staging it repeatedly: will Dr Khan give up his life's work to live in the public eye, and will his Muslim family give their blessing to a marriage?

There's some fun to be had along the way, with Diana and Khan taking turns hiding in their car boots to avoid the following media, and we can marvel at how the Princess manipulated the press when it suited her. You get a sense of how moving this story could have been had it concentrated on what Diana did best: being the Queen of Hearts and using her status for charity. It would also been have a lot more interesting if Jeffreys and Hirschbiegel had dug a little deeper into this complex woman's life, rather than skimming over it.

There's been a lot of feedback about this film already, especially from the British press. But, to be fair, Diana isn't as bad as some critics have suggested. It's slick and well produced, with an eye for authenticity, especially when it comes to wardrobe. It's also attempted something new by trying to realise a lesser-known side of Diana's life, her secretive love life. It's just a shame a film about such a complex woman has been reduced to something only vaguely interesting.

Stars: 2/5
Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Running time: 113 mins
Rating: M (offensive language)
Verdict: Naomi Watts is fabulous, but this biopic only skims over the real Diana

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