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Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Diana

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Produced by: Robert Bernstein
Douglas Rae

Screenplay by: Stephen Jeffreys

Based on: Diana: Her Last Love by Kate Snell

Starring: Naomi Watts
Naveen Andrews
Cas Anvar

Music by: Keefus Ciancia
David Holmes

Cinematography by: Rainer Klausmann

Editing by: Hans Funck

Studio(s): Ecosse Films
Film i Vast
Filmgate Films
Le Pacte
Mahla Filmes
Scope Pictures

Distributed by: Entertainment One

Release date(s): September 5, 2013 (Premiere)
September 20, 2013 (United Kingdom)
November 1, 2013 (United States)

Running time: 113 minutes

Country: United Kingdom

Langauge: English

Production budget: (Not Available)

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $2, 230, 489 (United Kingdom only)

Alrighty then, with the rate of reviews coming in fast and furious now, this will be the last review of this bracket, and then I will be doing a summary of the month(s) of August/September much along the lines of my usual review of the month schtick. I just had to pile the two together because I saw bugger all in the month of August. I've already gotten started on October, having seen Filth on the Friday opening night (more of which in due time), so for all the latest at the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is Diana, the latest in a long line of Oscar-baiting biopics about a British person. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be cynical, but The Yanks at the Academy love giving awards out to people playing famous Britons. Indeed, twice in the past three Academy Award ceremonies have acting honours went to this small group, Colin Firth of course for his brilliant performance in The King's Speech as King George VI, and Meryl Streep for playing the now well and truly deceased Mrs. Thatcher. Now, it's no secret that Diana has been savaged in the United Kingdom by the press, and not just the odd bad review, uniformly negative opinions have been shared regarding this picture. Naomi Watts herself indicated an awareness of this reception, as seen in the interview hosted by Simon Mayo, during which she was on the defensive and cut it short by two minutes. However, despite having heard these things, I think very highly of Naomi Watts as an actress, working in films such as 21 Grams, King Kong, Eastern Promises (a movie that deserves rediscovering), last year's The Impossible, and her breakthrough role in David Lynch mesmerising 2001 film Mulholland Drive. Also, the director Oliver Hirschbiegel is a talented, poised filmmaker, having made for BBC Two the Northern Ireland-set film Five Minutes Of Heaven, starring Liam Neeson and Jimmy Nesbitt, and is also responsible for Downfall, the extraordinary biopic of the last days Adolf Hitler, starring Bruno Ganz, and not only one of cinema's great biopics, but one of the best film's of the noughties. With those credentials and context sorted, lets talk synopsis: focusing on the last two years of her life following her divorce from Prince Charles, it depicts primarily the eponymous Diana falling in love with Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), a heart surgeon who wishes to stay out of the limelight, and, of course, being in a relationship with one of the world's most famous people creates complications. Shall we dance?

I'll go off on a different note perhaps from the highly derisory reviews by pointing out that there are good things about Diana. There are some instances of fine cinematography by Rainer Klausmann. Having worked with Hirschbiegel before and also Fatih Akin on Head-On and The Edge Of Heaven, Klausmann brings his unique photographic style (which involves a very expressionistic form that highlights the strength of an actor's performances), and some parts of the film, particularly the opening scene following Naomi Watts' Diana from behind through various rooms, are strong. Also, Naveen Andrews pitches his performance as Hasnat Khan right down the middle, playing out the mixed emotions of the surgeon rather well. A charming and sympathetic screen presence with a wonderful delivery of lines akin to that of Jeremy Irons, Andrews also carries the weight to necessary to get across the emotional conflict of Khan, and makes for the film's best performer. The standout scene in the film is a terrific bit of work when Diana and Khan head off into the country and walk along a beach with Jacques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas playing over the top of it. Perhaps it isn't a good thing to say about the movie, but for the brief couple of minutes this was going on, it was a poignant little music video of two people in love, Watts and Andrews both at their best performance wise. Some of the silent montages in the film like this, and also one that reveals itself as the proverbial 'second-act dramatic tension scene' unfold rather well, and hint at the direction Hirschbiegel probably should have taken the film.

Now, as I said, the film has received more or less scathing reviews of people just savaging the movie, and while I don't feel quite as bad as some, and Diana isn't what you think of as a typical 'bad movie,' but the fact is is that it is the most generic, bland and simply dull film I have seen this year. It just plays down the line of this middle of the road picture that does not dare to do anything overly challenging with Lady Di or any of the material they had at their disposal. I mean, Hirschbiegel's Downfall had the gall, the audacity to simply look at Adolf Hitler from an objective humanistic perspective, but this is so teeky and has any/all of the edges to it sanded off. The screenplay by Stephen Jeffreys is saccharine, full of this kind of earnestness and respect for Diana that shows them as far too much in awe of the subject. Also, the dialogue is absolutely woeful, with this overtly staged dialogue that does nothing but suggest to the audience that nobody in any world or realm of the living actually talks like that. It is so artificial and clunkily-constructed that it turns the Tyrell Corporation's "More Human Than Human" slogan into "Less Human Than Human." It would be satirical and humorous if it wasn't so pathetic and disappointing at the same time. Also, the structure and arc of the plot, if I am so bold to use the word 'plot,' cops out completely on any source of tension that could be derived of Diana's relationships with Khan and Dodi Fayed. It just says essentially that Dodi Fayed was essentially just rebound off of her relationship with Khan, and you're just like "No, life is more complicated than that!" Furthermore, in the title role, much as I admire her extended work as an actress, Watts fails to convince in the lead role in the same way the likes of Colin Firth did in The King's Speech. I think that more time should have been spent on getting across the emotional drive of the character, as opposed to playing around with an accent that ultimately still sounds like a cracked Naomi Watts. She is a talented actor with all the poise and instinct for the art in the world, but she fails to truly get inside what the filmmakers' are trying to put over on the audience. The movie is also way too long at nearly two hours. If it had been about ninety to a hundred minutes, it might have been acceptable as a decent film, but it goes on and on, the scenes dragging out past their natural conclusions. I saw the film with my mum and at one point I got chastised by her for starting to nod off in the third act. Much as I don't actively dislike the film in the way others this year, such as The Hangover Part II, After Earth and (the worst film I have seen in seven years of reviewing films) the nadir that is Grown Ups 2, if the movie is consistently dull enough to cause me to fall asleep, then it mustn't be anything worth seeing. (And the music is abominable: EHO/Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra 101!)

Diana isn't as bad as it's all cracked up to be. Rainer Klausmann provides some fine instances of cinematography, particularly in conjunction with director Hirschbiegel's use of silent montage in certain scenes. It also contains a strong performance from Naveen Andrews, and the scene involving Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas is a poignant highlight, though it does tell us more or less how the movie should have been made. Unfortunately, though not as actively loathsome as some films, it has a saccharine script from Stephen Jeffreys, which has terrible characterisation and structure, and the dialogue he has scribed sounds like no one in the world, ever! Also, Naomi Watts, talented as she is, fails to convince in the title role, and the movie drags itself on for far far longer than is necessary. As I said, not actively loathsome, but terribly middle of the road, with all edges sanded off and frightfully dull.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good good (relaxing Sunday, reading Dragon Ball, WWE Battleground PPV tonight, listening to Billy Idol's Eyes Without A Face)

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