It's thumbs down, at least in the United Kingdom, for Diana, the new biopic starring Naomi Watts as the Princess of Wales in the two years before her shocking death in 1997.
The film had its film premi®re in London on Thursday, is due to open in the U.K. on Sept. 20, a few weeks past the 16th anniversary of the Paris car crash in which she was killed, and is set to open in North America on Nov. 1.
Maybe the jeers won't be as loud by then, and anyway, American audiences often react differently from the British, who have been arguing over Diana and the meaning of her life and death for three decades now.
Still, some of the critical terms used to describe the film, which tells the story of Diana's doomed two-year secret love affair with a Pakistani heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan (Lost's Naveen Andrews), were less than kind:
"Excruciatingly well intentioned" with "bizarre cardboard dialogue." (The Guardian). "Lurid sensationalism" and "pedestrian" (The Telegraph). "Fabulously awful" and "cheap and cheerless" (The Mirror). "Terribly, terribly dull" (The Daily Mail). "Squirmingly embarrassing script" and "atrocious and intrusive" (The Times).
The reviewers insist the filmmakers got it wrong about the kind of woman Diana was. Diana has "died another awful death," wrote Peter Bradshaw in his review in The Guardian. "By excluding (Prince) Charles (still an important figure in her life) and any real depiction of her relationship with her sons -- perhaps through some unspoken deference to these important and very-much-alive royals -- the film creates a distorted, sugary and preposterous impression. She is the Heiress Of Sorrows."
And there was more, although Watts herself did get a few kudos. She is "utterly, uncannily brilliant," although she sports a "Godawful hair-do," says Kate Armstrong in The Telegraph in panning the film. "Was an actress ever more ill served by her make-up and hair people? Even in the air-brushed poster, she looks more Tina Brown than Princess Di," Armstrong writes.
In his review, critic David Gritten, also in The Telegraph, says "Watts makes a decent fist of playing Diana" and "the hair looks first-rate." Go figure.
Maybe the monarchy-skeptical Guardian never thought much about the real Diana when she was alive, but the same cannot be said of such pro-monarchy papers as The Telegraph and The Times, so their critics' reactions to the film are not insignificant.
The reaction in Britain has been an issue for Watts (British-born but raised in Australia) ever since she got the part after turning it down twice. She has said in media interviews she worried about whether the film would upset Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
The princes are known to be resentful of media exploitation of their mother, so it is probably a given they will not like this film regardless of the reviews, but they will never say so in public themselves. Instead, the U.K. media will do it for them.
-- USA Today