I really wanted to like this movie. It’s a movie about one of the most beloved, famous, wonderful figures ever in history whose death shook many nations. I wanted to like this movie so bad that I even convinced myself to shed a little tear at the end of the weirdest, worst biopic/romance/what? movie I’ve ever seen (although I attribute this fact more largely to how sad the story itself is and nothing to do with how the story was carried out). Basically, everything that could go wrong or that you may have feared would happen in Diana, did. The script was predictable. The direction was… odd. And the editing WAS HORRIBLE. The one thing that impressed me about this movie was how much Naomi Watts looks like Diana and how much I like Naveen Andrews (oh, what up Sayid from Lost). But I’m sad to report (SPOILER ALERT) that while Diana dies at the end of the movie, the movie never really had any life to it to begin with (that line was about as clever as the movie (i.e. not at all clever)).
Diana tells the story of the lesser-known relationship between Princess Diana and a heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan. When Diana’s acupuncturist/therapist/hand-holder’s husband gets sick, it’s love at first sight for Diana when Dr. Stallion (aka Hasnat Khan) walks into the room saying he’s saved the man’s life. But don’t worry, it gets more clichéd from there! What follows is more of the romantic drama genre conventions, with long wordless montages of the couple snuggling, then getting into a fight, then one of them saying, “I just can’t live without you.” Seriously, I think those exact words were part of the script. It is just such a wasted opportunity because there are so many other things Diana could have been about. It could have been about her divorce from Prince Charles (which was only a minor current in the story arc), or about her service trips (yet another small blip), or more of a full biography of her life. This film was trying to allude to her loveless life even before Prince Charles, but yet again, the filmmakers didn’t delve too deeply into this subject, fearing it may distract from making another tragic love story with nothing interesting or unique except the fact that the characters were real people.
Apart from the horrible screenwriting, let’s get into the horrible editing, because that was what distracted me the most. I assume that making the choppiest, most failed attempt at mimicking an art film was on purpose. Scenes would often be cut off in the middle of a conversation or mid-look, as much of them film was an exchange of looks. Perhaps this was to mimic a life cut short like Diana’s, but I hope not because that’s just very contrived, bad filmmaking. Unfortunately, that’s the best excuse I can think of. Then there was the choppy and discontinuous implementation of some sort of musical theme. Hasnat Khan loved jazz, and his love of jazz inspired Diana to “improvise” more in her own life to separate herself from the crown and her ex-husband. Despite that trope being so cheesy, I understand that. That’s fine. But there were a lot of randomly placed scenes throughout the film of either Diana listening to or playing music. I took this as meaning… something. I honestly can’t say, all I know is that they were trying to make some point that was completely lost on me.
But I don’t want this to turn into a tirade (if it hasn’t already) so now for the brief moments of decency. The cinematography was beautiful. The costumes and make-up were great. There were definitely some sweet and well-manufactured romantic moments between Diana and Hasnat (quoting poems and the Qur’an, the final scene). But ultimately I remained disappointed and unimpressed. Diana may have had something new to say about who her true love was at the time of her death (Hasnat, not Dodi), but in terms of saying anything new about who she was, something that could have added depth to the woman herself, the film fell completely flat. For Diana to be based on such a lovely, charming woman, it baffles me that the movie was neither.