Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
October 31, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
Before the “Diana” screening I attended, moviegoers could enter to win a spa package to live like a princess for a day. This seems better suited to a Disney princess movie—unless the winner will be mobbed by photographers after her massage.
The questionable judgment lasted another two hours. The princess of Wales (Naomi Watts in a role I’d have wanted for Elizabeth Banks or Alice Eve) was the people’s princess, yet “Diana” keeps the people at a distance. It mostly chronicles her relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews of “Lost”) in the two years before her death. Really? That’s all that matters in this lifetime?
Diana insists, “I want to help people!” but the film doesn’t connect her global activism with actual progress. Set from 1995-97, the movie repeatedly reminds us that she’s the most famous woman in the world—take that, Julia Roberts!—without proving why. Adapting Kate Snell’s book “Diana: Her Last Love,” writer Stephen Jeffreys and director Oliver Hirschbiegel (“Downfall”) take far too many details for granted. When Diana laments that her family is “bloody irritating,” viewers without clear memories of everything that went down will consider pulling up Wikipedia mid-movie. (Don’t.)
I have no idea what’s behind Diana’s games with certain members of the paparazzi, managing her brand in unclear ways. I believe she was seen as a devoted mother, so it’s odd the only time she is portrayed with her sons, she’s saying goodbye. Why does she spend so much time with her acupuncturist? And could her interest in Khan really have led her to cheesily yell outside his building and ask him if hearts can literally break?
I gagged when the doctor compares the improvisational nature of jazz to life, saying, “You improvise all the time; if you can improvise, you’ll like jazz.” Also painful: the phoniness of watching people onscreen listen to music.
Clearly, I’m distracted. Too close to “Hyde Park on the Hudson” on the “Who cares?” scale, the unmemorable “Diana” treats its memorable figure as a martyr who was a lousy cook and a victim of fame (unfortunately, all public figures lack privacy), not a complex humanitarian with an often-difficult personal life. Jeez, she sheds far more tears over Khan than the sight of kids in Angola whose limbs were blown off by land mines. That’s the stuff that matters, not sneaking around in a wig to meet her secret boyfriend at Chicken Cottage. Which does sound delicious, though.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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