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CBS' Diana, princess of whine Review: TV movie based on a book by her riding instructor turned royal paramour offers complaints by the screenful.


Pillow talk from Diana, Princess of Wales:

"You've no idea how good it feels to trust someone -- especially a man."

"In public, it's all an act. In private, he never touches me."

"Ewww, that Rottweiler!"

That's CBS' version of pillow talk with Di, anyway, per "Princess in Love," a made-for-television movie airing at 9 tonight. In each of the statements -- and what seems like about 10,000 similar ones -- she is proclaiming her misery to Capt. James Hewitt, her riding instructor, lover and, ultimately, the guy who sold their story to the tabloids and writer Anna Pasternak, whose book is the basis for tonight's film.

Of all the movies and books written about the world's most famously unhappy marriage, "Princess in Love" has Diana at her most whiny. In fact, it seems like a minor miracle that she and Hewitt -- played by British actors Julie Cox and Christopher Villiers -- ever found the time to become lovers, as Diana rants, raves and pouts about her awful husband, Charles, day and night, inside and out, dressed and undressed. It's no mystery why there appears to be an immense look of relief on Hewitt's face when he is transferred to Germany near the end of the affair -- even as he tries to act the stoic soldier, telling Diana how much he will suffer by their forced separation.

If you are expecting D.H. Lawrence, with lots of leather and lathered horseflesh, forget it. "Princess in Love" is more like a bad episode of "thirtysomething" when the whine-o-meter was totally in the red.

The film uses Diana's interview with the BBC for its structure: We see Diana answering questions from an off-camera interviewer, and, as she refers to something or someone with her answer, the incident or person pops up on-screen in flashback. This makes for a script that has very little sense of continuity and a narrative filled with potholes.

But then, this story of a princess and her extramarital affair never pretends to be much more than a highlight reel of royal bonkings, punctuated by episodes of royal pouting, royal bulimia and royal nail files being drawn across royal wrists. Yes, in that sense, dramatizations of all the "good stuff" are there in "Princess in Love."

On the other hand, we see very little of the queen, who mainly stands around with her corgis looking peeved. And there's nothing at all of the queen's husband, Prince Phillip. As for Charles, this is Diana's party, and he is depicted as being more interested in hauling royal manure around the royal vegetable patches and wearing the right kilts as he prepares to visit Scotland. The film does show Diana trying to come between Charles and his organic compound to talk about the future of the monarchy but, in this telling, she and the future of England take a back seat to his passion for compost.

Charles' other passion -- the person Diana calls "that Rottweiler," otherwise known as Camilla Parker Bowles -- is seen mainly as a person who sympathizes with Charles' bad luck at being saddled with a "ninny who can't even get through a dinner party without going to pieces," to use the words of Parker Bowles.

Probably the most interesting player in this version of the Diana-James-Charles-Camilla quadrangle is the press. It's in every scene, with the royals thinking about it almost as much as they think about themselves, which is really saying something. The leaks, the taped bedroom antics, telephone conversations and pictures on the front pages of tabloids -- even the BBC interview -- are the real plot points. More than love, revenge or any other human emotion, these people appear to calculate their next move -- romantic or otherwise -- on yesterday's headlines. It is Hewitt's sale of his story to the press that really puts the stamp of "paid" on his romance with Diana in tonight's film. In fact, his parting words to her are, "It's bound to come out anyway."

In the end, "Princess in Love" is just one more grain of sand in the Sahara of sensational press coverage of the royals. Don't expect socially redeeming value in such a May sweeps docudrama. Though, I guess there is a kind of morality at work: The film seems to try, at least, to leave the viewer feeling that everyone in this story gets exactly what they deserve.

Pub Date: 5/15/96

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