MRR Review: "Diana"

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A British biopic detailing the last two years of Princess Diana's life, as told by her lifelong bodyguard Ken Wharfe. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and starring Naomi Watts as the title character, the film focuses on the Princess of Wales' relationships with heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan (played by Naveen Andrews) and Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar).
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MRR Review: "Diana"

Rating: PG-13
Length: 113 minutes
Release date: Nov. 1, 2013
Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Genre: Biography/Romance/Drama

Despite the passage of sixteen years since Princess Diana's death, fans of the princess, royal watchers, and essentially everyone who is enamored by the English sovereign family are still hungry for anything that has to do with Diana Spencer, formerly the Princess of Wales, mother of Prince William, heir to the throne, and ex-wife of Prince Charles, heir apparent. In fact, fans have been waiting years for a big-screen film based on the life of the late princess, and they finally got it with the November 1 release of "Diana." Although Stephen Frears brought viewers a glimpse of the life of Diana in the backstory found in 2006's "The Queen," this film attempts to give die-hard Diana fans a look at the final two years of her life.

The film, which is based on the book "Diana: Her Last Love" by Kate Snell (2000), looks at the post-Charles Diana and the love affair between her and Hasnat Khan, the Pakistani cardiac surgeon with whom the media conjectured Diana to be involved romantically. The book is written based on interviews with Diana's confidantes and friends.

It stars Naomi Watts ("21 Grams," "Fair Game," and "J. Edgar") as Diana and Naveen Andrews (from TV's "Lost" and "The English Patient) as Dr. Khan. The supporting cast includes Charles Edwards, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson, and Douglas Hodge. The film is directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on "Downfall," a dramatic retelling of the final days of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and it has a screenplay by Stephen Jeffreys, an award-winning playwright and first-time screenwriter.

The film follows Diana's final two years of life following her separation from Prince Charles and leading up until her death on the night of Aug. 31, 1997, after suffering fatal injuries during an auto accident in Paris. The film opens with a view of Diana boarding an elevator on the night that she dies. It then rewinds to two years earlier, when she first met Dr. Khan while visiting a friend who was hospitalized.

In "Diana," audiences get a glimpse of the princess doing things that ordinary people do, and the viewer gets a rare feel for how distant, isolated, and alone she felt. The film has been criticized for making the princess' life seem more trivial and normal than it really was. For example, in the film, Diana is able to walk the streets like a normal person, when the reality was much different—she was hounded by the paparazzi every time she stepped out into the world.

While some critics of the film were quick to disapprove of Naomi Watts for the role, mainly on the basis that she is shorter than the late princess, Watts delivers the mannerisms and voice of Diana in a spot-on way that adds a lot of believability to a film that seems to be based largely on gossip and tabloid reports. Although Watts is not a dead ringer for Diana, she does pull off the look in a way that turns heads and resurrects the image that has been ingrained into two generations of Diana watchers. Her subtle head turns, her tics, and the overall way that she carries herself are obviously evidence of Watts' talents as an actress, and she wows viewers with what she doesn't say. For instance, in a scene in which Diana is quietly reflecting on her life, Watts is able to give the viewer an intimate look at Diana's persona and how she was merely a human being who craved nothing more than an everyday life filled with love and happiness.

One of the biggest bonuses of a film that may prove not to be a hit is its dramatic costumes. Many of Diana's most gorgeous and memorable dresses, suits, and gowns are recreated throughout the film for an overall stunning effect that really adds to the realism of Watts' character.

Even though "Diana" comes across as a somewhat inconsistent biopic that can be soapy and sappy in parts, it nonetheless finds its niche with some fans who don't hold the film's creators to task for not injecting a lot of reality into the script. Some viewers say that strong performances from the lead actor and actress in the film make it a worthy must-see for royal watchers who are able to get beyond a script that has been called corny and gossip-laden from a director who has been cited as lacking focus in this attempt to resurrect an icon. While many make the argument that the film positions the elegant Diana as nothing more than a sex-starved ex-princess who is eager for love and looking for joy where she can find it, others believe it to be a fairly precise retelling of her final years.

Rating: 3 out of 5