It's thumbs down today, at least in the United Kingdom, forDiana, the new bio pic starring Naomi Watts as the lost Princess of Wales in the two years before her shocking death in 1997.
The film, which had its premiere 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 Diana was killed - and in the U.S. on Nov. 1.
Maybe the jeers won't be as loud by then. Besides, 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 thecritical termsused 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), wereless 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 what kind of woman Diana was.
Diana has "died another awful death," wrote Peter Bradshaw in his review inThe 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," even while sporting a "Godawful hair-do," writes Kate Armstrong inThe Telegraph. "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."
In his review, critic David Gritten, also inThe Telegraph, writes, "Watts makes a decent fist of playing Diana" and "the hair looks first-rate." Go figure.
Maybe the monarchy-skepticalGuardiannever thought much about the real Diana when she was alive, but the same cannot be said of such pro-monarchy papers asThe TelegraphandThe 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 that 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.