Royal expert Kelly Lynch and I enjoy better chemistry just sitting around chatting over a glass of wine than Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews have while swept up in a passionate and doomed love affair in “Diana.”
Kelly is a dear friend of ours who’s a contributing editor at Spin Media and the creator of The Duchess Diary, your one-stop source for all things regarding HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. So I knew that when the melodrama about the Princess of Wales’ secret fling with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan hit theaters — to abysmal reviews — I’d have to bring Kelly with me and do a Movies-With-Friends chat afterward. We saw the movie (with only a dozen other people — seriously, we counted) at the AMC Loews Broadway 4 at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, then picked it apart over chardonnay (for her) and cabernet (for me) at Swingers. Herewith are the best bits:
CL: So had you heard of this guy, her alleged true love, before this movie?
KL: Hasnat Khan? Yes. He was treating her friend’s husband and she was immediately smitten kitten with him.
CL: So had you read this book that the movie is based on?
KL: I actually haven’t. It’s Kate Snell’s book. I have it in my possession. I’ve heard from many a reliable source that this was wildly inaccurate and that these people that wrote the script have no idea what they are talking about. That actually came from the lips of Hasnat Khan himself.
CL: But the woman who wrote the book is an associate producer on the film.
KL: She is, but she only had a few conversations with Dr. Khan. That’s what he told The Daily Mail. He said that she met him briefly in the late ’90s and he didn’t really go into anything with her because he’s a very private person, but she kind of took that and went to the production company. They claim that they had Hasnat Khan’s blessing, he said that they did not.
CL: So the book is inaccurate and the film is inaccurate. All right. So as a movie, as a piece of “art,” what did you think?
KL: I thought it was crap. It did Naomi Watts a disservice as an actress. She’s done so many wonderful pictures, and then she does this. It was better off as a Lifetime movie.
CL: I never forgot that I was watching Naomi Watts.
CL: Despite the hair, despite the nose, whatever they did to her.
KL: No. And that was the worst part — I didn’t either.
CL: I never felt like I was watching Diana.
KL: It was as if Naomi was falling in love with Dr. Hasnat Khan.
CL: So why does it fail, then? Is it the script? Is it the performances? What’s wrong with it?
KL: It was all just so contrived and it felt so forced and silly. There was a scene where Diana and Hasnat Khan had an argument at his apartment, and she went back to her apartment and was crying over a letter and all of a sudden Paul Burrell, her butler, let him just storm into the palace. I don’t think so — she’s a princess.
CL: How do you walk in like that?
KL: You don’t walk in like that. You don’t just storm in. It’s so ridiculous.
CL: Well I was wondering why it is that she felt the need to stalk him by phone and then stand outside of his window and yell …
KL: Oh yeah, what about that scene? The Princess of Wales would never do something that crazy. She knows the photographers would be following her.
CL: Well that’s a whole other question — sometimes they’re all over her, sometimes she can walk around with no problem. How is it possible that a brunette wig somehow makes her unrecognizable, like she’s Clark Kent?
KL: It doesn’t!
CL: And then she can enjoy life as a brunette.
KL: The paparazzi will find you everywhere. They’re tipped by everyone. So the fact that she was outside of his flat screaming at he top of her lungs …
CL: And they already knew who he was at that point!
KL: Of course they did. People would be stalking his place 24/7. And I can’t see her climbing over a fence to avoid them … oh, the pain. It was awful. The whole movie was rubbish.
CL: I don’t know what it is that she saw in him. She tells a lot about how, oh, you’re beautiful, you have this great focus. But I found him to be an abrasive and dismissive and rigid jerk. They don’t make him out to be this great, romantic hero.
KL: And he wasn’t. He was always very reserved, he had a disgusting diet. He was a structured man — he was a heart surgeon. That was his life. And I think her coming in and upsetting the apple cart threw him for a loop. In the end I think he couldn’t handle the press and the publicity that came along with dating her. It was too much for him. I think that’s why she liked him, though — he didn’t treat her like a princess.
CL: I never got any sense of who she truly was. I got a sense of what the public image always was, which was the landmine issues, and dealing with children and the poor, and that truly seemed legitimate. But again, that’s her well-known public image. But I didn’t feel like I learned anything I didn’t already know, and I’m not a big royal watcher like you are. The one thing that really struck me, since I’m a mother myself: I got no sense of her as a mother and what those boys meant to her, how she parented them.
KL: And that was the best part of her, was how great she was as a mother to her kids.
CL: Because she exposed them to things outside of the monarchy.
KL: That’s why they’re such great men today.
CL: That felt like a giant, gaping hole as far as fleshing out who she was. Did they do anything right here, either historically or just in terms of being engaging?
KL: They got her shoes right.
CL: The clothes are fun.
KL: The clothes are great.