If you were going to invent a fairy-tale love story gone bad, you couldn’t come up with anything better than the real-life story of Diana, Princess of Wales.
She meets and falls in love with Prince Charles – the possible future king – and from their whirlwind romance to their wedding that was broadcast live around the world, every aspect of her life seemed magical. But then there was the rift between Diana and Charles, the rumors of Charles’ infidelity and their eventual divorce. And just when Diana meets someone new and her life begins to seem as if it’s turning around, she dies in a tragic car crash.
Considering the amount of times her life story has been told and retold, you might be forgiven for thinking that there is little about Diana’s life that could be surprising and unknown. But while Diana isn’t an especially great movie, it does tell the story of a forbidden romance that wasn’t well covered in the tabloids.
Based on Kate Snell’s book about the two-year clandestine romance between Princess Diana (Naomi Watts) and heart surgeon Hasnet Khan (Naveen Andrews), Diana tells the story of a romance that was probably doomed from the first moment.
We’re told that this romance was the love of Diana’s life and yet the relationship doesn’t come across that way on film. Khan is often cold and distant, resentful of Diana’s fame and the amount of time it consumes in her life. There are some tender moments, but they are overshadowed by this sense of potential doom that permeates every scene between Diana and Khan.
Granted, Andrews has a difficult role to pull off. Khan had to have the arrogance of a cardiac surgeon and the emotional distance to not seem too impressed that Diana, the ex-Princess of Wales, is walking across his apartment in her nightgown. Andrews does a good job portraying that part of the relationship, but he never manages to capture the warmth that must have existed in a man who managed to captivate Diana so completely.
By far the best thing about Diana is the acting of Watts, who manages to completely capture the essence of Diana from her photo-friendly public smile to the blank look that slides across her face as she finds a moment of privacy. She slides into the role seemingly without effort and after a while, it’s easy to forget that you’re not watching footage of Diana herself. As Diana, Watts is strong and vulnerable and attractive in a way that seems very believable, based on what most of us saw in news footage.
In the end, Diana is a flawed movie and there are a lot of things to criticize about the production. But if you’re a fan of Diana’s and find yourself unable to resist anything with her name on it, then you’ll probably love the film. For everyone else, it’s probably worth waiting for it to come to DVD and your favorite cable TV channel.