A tepid telling of the Princess Diana tale

Movie: Diana; Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Charles Edwards, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson, Cas Anvar; Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Rating: *1/2 stars

The story of the late Queen of Hearts and Princess of Wales, Diana, has been an open book and the expectation from this tale is colossal.

Unfortunately, Director Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Diana" inspired by British journalist, Kate Schnell's 2001 book, "Diana: Her Last Love," does not attempt to place her within any historical or political period. Instead, the film pans the dramatic last two years of Diana's life, portraying her as a lonely soul starved of love.

The film, dramatically bookended by scenes showing the buildup to Diana's fatal car crash in Paris Aug 31, 1997, is basically a shallow docudrama.

Initially the chronicle is gummed-up with various distorted snippets of Diana's life and then slowly and gradually settles on her affair with Hasnat Khan, a Pakistani heart surgeon who she meets by chance while visiting a friend in hospital.

The narration focuses on the on-off relationships of two contrasting personalities giving an insight into their affair, of how it blossoms from a casual meeting to a full blown relationship.

It shows Diana as a mortal woman desiring companionship and the efforts she puts in to make the relationship work. It also reveals her fears and pain.

But of all the stories that one has heard and read of Diana, this film safely detaches from reality and avoids the stories of her battle with bulimia, the self-harming, depression, her affairs with her butler James Hewitt, and England Rugby captain Will Carling.

The script itself acts as a ruthless stalker, uneasy with its own probing. It does little to convey either the perfection or imperfection of its subject. Unfortunately, it does not reveal anything about the enigmatic Diana, but manages instead to portray her as a tepidly manipulative and scheming woman, who fed the media with photographs taken with Dodi Fayed.

Thus, Stephen Jeffreys' screenplay seems unfocussed and fickle. The dialogues too are mediocre and sound dull and comical.

Naomi, in all fairness, has done her best to impersonate the larger-than-life Diana. In fact, she has perfected the coy smile and compassionate gaze, but definitely not hit the mark, where Diana is concerned. The performance is lacklustre.

Naveen as Dr. Hasnat Khan is a almost enough to repulse an audience, as the viewer would be left wondering how a princess could fall for someone with no iota of personality. He puffs, hogs and walks through his scenes. The intensity or the passion for the princess or for his work is missing.

Together, Naomi and Naveen struggle admirably, but appear stuttering puppets. The pair is devoid of real chemistry, even when sometimes charming. The mutual attraction is made somewhat plausible, and their love for each other is relatively convincing, even if the spark of attraction is not.

The camera work is tacky, and the shots placid. There seems to be no effort to render Naomi charming, and she falls quite flat as a representation of the woman once considered the most beautiful in the world.

Except for capturing the scenic beauty of Dover, the cinematographer has taken no trouble to capture any shots aesthetically.

Coming from director Oliver Hirschbiegel who received an Oscar nomination for "Downfall" that fabulous film about Hitler's final days in his Berlin bunker, "Diana" is a big disappointment.

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