'Diana': The princess and the heart surgeon

Actress Naomi Watts attends the premiere of "Diana" hosted by The Cinema Society, Linda Wells and Allure Magazine at the SVA Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Forgive me for making light of serious subject matter - a doomed love affair, the death of the Princess of Wales - but I can't help it, I'm confused.

In Diana, which is set a few years after Charles and Diana separated and which explores the deeply secret, deeply romantic relationship between "the most famous woman in the world" and a Pakistani heart surgeon saving lives in a London hospital, the princess frequently blurts out what sounds like "HazMat!" Then she treks off to Angola or Bosnia, as Diana famously did, lobbying for the global ban of land mines.

Something in Diana is going to blow!

Actually, that heart surgeon, played with remarkable dignity by Naveen Andrews, goes by the name Hasnat Khan, which rhymes with HazMat. And in truth, the only hazardous material to be found in Diana - the title role assumed bravely, if mistakenly, by Naomi Watts - is the screenplay.

This is a TV movie all the way, in the pre-HBO network shlock sense of the term. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel fared far better with another storm-tossed bio, Downfall, about the last days of Hitler.

After a chance meeting outside an operating room, Diana and Khan begin a clandestine courtship. She sneaks him into Kensington Palace, he invites her to his flat for dinner. He likes fast food, cigarettes, and jazz. She puts on a dark wig so they can go out in public, unrecognized. Inevitably, the paparazzi find them - tabloid headlines and tear-stained letters ensue.

As does dialogue along the lines of "If I marry you, I have to marry the whole world as well," and "I'll never be happy again."

Globe-hopping glamorously, and approximating the it's-lonely-at-the-top lifestyle of Princess Di as she struggles to find herself in the wake of a crumbling royal marriage, Diana isn't unwatchable. Indeed, it could be a guilty pleasure - if you have a thing for bombs.


Diana ** (Out of four stars)

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. With Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, and Juliet Stevenson. Distributed by eOne Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hour, 53 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, adult themes)

Playing at: Ritz East







Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. With Naveen Andrews, Lee Asquith-Coe, Cas Anvar, Geraldine James, Naomi Watts. Distributed by eOne Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 53 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for brief strong language, some sensuality and smoking).