(First published in The New Indian Express)
Naomi Watts plays Diana with a disarming calculated modesty. It might well be the sort of trait you’d associate with the Princess of Wales herself but how can you tell? For a life lived amidst paparazzi and intense media scrutiny it is difficult to know how much of it was the real woman and how much of it was a mask in front of the flashlights. So what’s on screen here is a Diana that the world would like to see. Naomi Watts of course does full justice to this but the question is whether the film reciprocates. It’s a mix of the unassuming philanthropist and the alluring grandiosity – which Watts is much better at like when she remarks, “I am a Princess. I get what I want” or when she says, “This is a palace. We never run out (of wine).”
The film chooses to focus on Diana’s romantic life, her life soon after separation from Prince Charles and until her death, much like the paparazzi and the media who had similar misplaced priorities. Yes it does establish that she was a person wanting to run away from it all. That she had almost accomplished it. But it is not much. What would have been interesting is showing the Diana that people hardly knew. We see her getting off a plane, saying goodbye to her kids Prince William and Prince Harry and that she’ll meet them again in five weeks. Now why not show how the actual vacation was with them? What did she say to them? How was she with her sons? Or building up from there, how was her interaction with Charles in the late 80s and leading up to the fissures in their marriage. How were her interactions with the Queen?
But to let go of what-ifs and focus on what this Oliver Hirschbiegel directed film actually sets out to do – it is at most middling and that’s only if you are feeling particularly charitable. Much like Jobs from couple of months ago, all we get are snapshots from her life – most of it public – and a few dramatic moments from her not so well guarded love life. This doesn’t need a full length film and you might actually do better by just flipping through past issues of The Sun and Daily Mail.
It starts with a nice tracking shot of Diana ensconced in her hotel room in Paris moments before the fateful car crash, the cameras and flashlights in safe distance below. It wouldn’t have been half bad if the film had chosen to keep it that way throughout.