There’s nothing in this flat, uninspired biopic which will change your opinion on the late Diana, Princess of Wales whatever it was: either a precious, much wronged saintly victim of a callous and cruel establishment or an arch-manipulator, all too aware of and willing to use the vast, unquestioning affection she commanded. This overly soapy film takes just shy of two hours to chart the last two years of Diana’s life, doing so without providing any new perspectives, insights or revelations.
Naomi Watts does good work as the title character, playing Diana as a woman with a curious mixture of naiveté and low cunning. She hits all the necessary biopic notes but is never able to give us more than a superficial experience of the woman behind the headlines and the studied look of doe-eyed innocence thanks to a script constrained by a TV-movie-of-the-week structure and production values which are cheap and amateurish. Clumsy attempts to humanise Diana and make her seem vulnerable, such as her inability to cook pasta sauce, are juxtaposed uneasily with the ease with which she spins a web of lies so she can do as she pleases, underscoring the life of extraordinary entitlement and privilege she lived, regardless of the emotional upsets she experienced.
The only character who emerges with any credibility is Dr Hasnat Khan, played by Naveen Andrews. Although saddled with dialogue that would make a Mills & Boon sub-editor wince, he nevertheless manages to convey the proud and principled man with whom we are expected to want Diana to be with.
The whole film lacks any real sense of drama or interest. The film actively shies away from any hint of the controversy, conspiracy theories surrounding Diana’s death or the ‘loose cannon’ threat she may have posed to the establishment and feels lightweight and inconsequential as a result. There is barely any mention or glimpses of Princes Charles, William and Harry and none at all of the rest of the Royal Family, preventing this from even being appreciated as a faintly interesting prequel to the vastly superior “The Queen”. How the director of the much lauded “Downfall” could also be the director of this is nothing short of baffling.
I usually enjoy biopics, and often the cheesier they are the better – they’re kind of like movie junk food. But this one? Meh. It’s nowehere near good enough to be good, and not rubbish enough to be fun. Tedious and trite, this is a lazy, shallow and overly-romanticized attempt at exploring the enduring fascination of one of the 20th Century’s most famous and ultimately controversial figures. It fumbles almost every aspect and were it not for the near-Herculean efforts of Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews, it wouldn’t even have managed the undistinguished level of mediocrity it achieves.