Movie review: 'Diana' turns princess's life into maudlin soap

Published November 7, 2013 5:23 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Of all the indignities Diana, Princess of Wales, suffered in her too-short life — including an unfaithful husband, an unfeeling royal family and an intrusive tabloid machine — the saccharine biopic "Diana" ranks among the most atrocious.

Naomi Watts plays Diana, introduced to us here in 1995 as she's trying to maintain her positive public profile after becoming separated from Prince Charles. She seeks a cause to get behind and finds it in the campaign for a global treaty against land mines. But she also finds a new love, in a Pakistani-born heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), who encourages her to use her fame to advance humanitarian ideals.

The relationship, as depicted by hack screenwriter Stephen Jeffreys ("The Libertine") and hamfistedly directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (who chronicled Hitler's final days in "Downfall"), is reduced to secret meetings and maudlin arguments about whether Hasnat can put up with Diana's fame. Watts is the movie's only positive element, as she captures Diana's charm and her desire to make being a princess mean something.

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Opens Friday, Nov. 8, at area theaters; rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sensuality and smoking; 113 minutes.