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Naomi Watts’ “Diana”: What Went Wrong?

January 16, 2014

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This wasn’t the way it was scripted. Last year at this time, Naomi Watts had just been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her amazing performance as a tsunami survivor in The Impossible and seemed poised for back-to-back nods with her royal biopic Diana in the can. After all, Oscar loves when a serious actress takes on a showy role as an historical icon, whether it’s Marilyn Monroe or Margaret Thatcher. Watts was expected to compete with her old friend, Nicole Kidman, who had her own Princess movie, Grace of Monaco, slated for a 2013 release.

Instead, Grace has been bumped to a March 2014 release, and Diana quietly flopped in theaters back in November, earning $335,000 in the U.S. To add insult, Watts was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Actress for Diana as well as her work in the all-star gross-out comedy Movie 43. She’ll compete with her Movie 43 costar Halle Berry as well as Lindsay Lohan (The Canyons), Selena Gomez (Getaway) and Tyler Perry (A Madea Christmas). What the hell?

As one of the few Americans who’s seen Diana, I can tell you that Watts doesn’t deserve such scorn. She physically and vocally resembles the People’s Princess, and it’s not her fault that the silly script doesn’t go below her surface. As a micro-biopic in the recent tradition of The King’s Speech, Hyde Park on Hudson and Lincoln, Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s melodrama chooses to focus on one small (and in this case not very interesting) aspect of her life: her love affair with Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan, stiffly portrayed by Lost survivor Naveen Andrews.

Their romance follows a predictable course: She pursues him, he resists because he’s a private person, they fall in love anyway and eventually break up because, well, he’s a private person. She moves on to Dodi Fayed, who’s barely a character. At least he gets more screen time than the unseen Princes Charles, William and Harry.

In the end, Watts’ career will survive this ignominy. She’s reuniting with Alejandro González Iñárritu, who guided her to her first Oscar nomination, for 21 Grams (she should’ve gotten one for David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., too). on the comedy Birdman, and she’s also got movies with Bill Murray (St. Vincent de Van Nuys) and directors Noah Baumbach (While We’re Young) and Errol Morris (Holland, Michigan) in the pipeline. The prospect of seeing her back in the Oscar race—and out of Razzie contention—next year seems far from Impossible.

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One Comment
  1. My biggest problem with this movie is it was more about Hasnat than Diana.

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