Movie Review: “Diana” is a great biopic, but falls flat on the personal side

Olivia Sheets

Courtesy of Entertainment One Films US.
Courtesy of Entertainment One Films US.

Minefields, giant yachts, sneaking past security guards and a secret love affair sound like aspects of a blockbuster movie, right? Well, they’re all featured in the biopic “Diana,” but not in the way you might think.

Based on Kate Snell’s book, “Diana: Her Last Love” published in 2001, “Diana” the film chronicles the last two years of the life of Princess Diana of Wales. The movie’s main focus is the “secret” love affair between the princess and Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), which took place after Diana’s formal separation from Prince Charles of Wales.

Naomi Watt’s portrayal of the late Princess gleams like the gigantic pearl earrings that are part of her costume. Watts gives a stellar performance, but the actual character of Diana falls flat.

The two lovers first see each other after Khan gives life-saving medical attention to Diana’s friend’s husband. For Diana it was love at first sight across the sterile hospital floor and starched linen bed.

They say when people fall in love it’s the other person’s eyes that catch them. Whether or not that happens between Khan and Princess Diana is never known, but it’s clear that director Oliver Hirschbiegel loves Watts’s eyes. The continual close ups on Watts’s eyes made me feel like I was watching a soap opera or a Maybelline commercial.

If Hirschbiegel’s intent was to let Diana come across as doe-eyed and beautiful, he succeeded. Unfortunately, this also gives Diana’s character a one-dimensional and clingy existence. Scenes like Diana sneaking into and cleaning Khan’s apartment, calling his name outside his window or putting on a fake Liverpool accent to reach him by phone after he’d rejected her earlier calls make Watts’ Diana like a needy high school girlfriend. Even Diana admits after they get back together, “I know I’ve been a mad bitch.”

The film also portrays Diana’s tormented relationship with the paparazzi. They make her life rather hard knock, even after she walks across a minefield in Africa, the cinematic representation of the Princess’ 1997 visit to the Angolan minefields.

Later in the movie Princess Di’s humanitarian work is highlighted, showing her auctioning for charity and continual efforts against landmines in a trip to Bosnia.

Although the film flows about as well as dried cement, it does manage a few emotional scenes. One being the breakup scene between Khan and Diana in a London park.

There’s lots of yelling before Diana loses it (and her expensive looking shoes) and literally runs away from her problems. Eventually she sails away from them when she accepts an invitation from uber-rich film producer Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) to vacation with him on his yacht, teasing the press and building up high school breakup angst over Khan, which ends on grim terms.

I hope I’m not spoiling it for anyone when I tell you Diana dies. This is the moment the film builds up to, and I don’t want to emotionally sabotage the ending, so how about I just say it’s done as well as it could have been.

Keep in mind Princess Diana was a beacon to many people’s lives, and although the majority of the film falls flat, it’s actually a good thing it doesn’t end after the famed car accident. Instead of showing Diana’s funeral, it shows the personal grieving of Khan as he places flowers at the gates to Diana’s home among other bereaved Londoners.

As a self-proclaimed private person, Khan doesn’t reveal himself to the crowd, only places his boquet and walks away, but a scene this simple is the most emotional of the movie. It’s just unfortunate that it took about an hour and a half and $10.50 to get there.

The rating on this movie isn’t as shiny as Di’s earrings. Personally, I’d give it a one and a half out of four stars. If you’re not an aspiring tabloid reporter or history buff, this movie might not be your cup of tea. Pick up your books and study for finals, you can wait for the DVD.