Skewed vision of the People’s Princess

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3SR: The most pertinent question Diana asks is how deep you will have to dig to find compassion for a woman so privileged and coddled she could not even boil pasta.

Starring Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Cas Anvar, Lee Asquith-Coe, Geraldine James and Juliet Stevenson.

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.

Written by Stephen Jeffreys.

Biography, drama, true story. 1hr 53mins. M for offensive language.

**

A wafer thin, self serving portrait of the so-called people’s Princess’s last years, Diana is the worst kind of car crash cinema – horrible to watch, and yet impossible to look away from.

Forgive the callousness, but with Diana, the filmmakers prove to be pretty crass and callous themselves, so it’s best you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

Following the Princess of Wales (Naomi Watts) fromher gilded-cage seclusion – barring public engagements – at Kensington Palace, to finding true love with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), to her brutal death, Dianaf reimagines the last years of the Princess’ life leaving no stone or rotten log unturned in the hunt for lurid and often banal details.

Only, finding them lacking, it seems writer Stephen Jefferies chose to repurpose reality to create a kind of true life Disney fairytale where an embattled and helpless woman finally finds her calling in the world through the love of a good man.

UK newspaper, The Daily Mail, says Dr Khan called Diana a ‘‘betrayal’’ based on a ‘‘superficial idea’’ of what went on between them.

He did not contribute to the film in any way, so it’s safe to say every conversation depicted in the film is made up.

It’s as if the filmmakers were so enamored with the idea of a Princess with a broken heart being healed by the love of a heart surgeon that they threw reality out the window.

Diana reduces Dodi El Fayed (Cas Anvar), the man with whom Diana spent her final moments, to little more than a wealthy bodyguard, a man with the means to whisk the world’s most famous woman off on jollies to sunny Porto Volupe, with no other expectation that that she get a good tan and enjoy his fabulous wealth.

Perhaps Diana did throw herself on the kindness of this man and his big dollar buffer. But the filmmakers go one step further, suggesting that the sanctuary of El Fayed’s deep pockets was also the platform from which Diana conducted a cunning program of media manipulation, just to get the attention of her former beau.

Pretty rum draw for poor old Dodi.

Scenes of Diana driving through the streets in tears, writing notes to her friends in tears and generally flailing about like an overwrought ninny drown the film in a desperate bid for pathos that falls short even of melodrama.

But despite what other reviews are saying, Watts makes a good fist of playing the isolated damosel in distress, her only fault being a lack of Diana’s famous sly coquettishness.

She even deals with the bloated Mills and Boon dialogue with poise.

‘‘Now that I’ve been loved,’’ Diana tells her acupuncturist confessor, Oonagh Toffolo (Geraldine James), at one point, ‘‘I don’t feel alone anymore.’’

No Disney Princess ever put it better.

In the end, the most pertinent question Diana asks is how deep you will have to dig to find compassion for a woman so privileged and coddled she could not even boil pasta.

I’m still digging.


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