Reign or Shine

View of Seattle and Puget Sound from the Space Needle
View of Seattle and Puget Sound from the Space Needle

I was traveling the better part of this week, visiting one of my favorite cities: Seattle. Despite weather forecasts to the contrary, it didn’t really rain on me once. Slight drizzle on the day I arrived, that was it.

On my last full day in town, rain had been predicted, but instead it was unseasonably warm and muggy with intermittent sunshine. I was amazed at the gratitude of Seattle residents for this unexpected gift. Most San Franciscans would describe a day like that as “meh, so-so”, but the folks I encountered in Seattle were elated. I got caught up in spirit. It was a beautiful day.

Changing leaves in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle.The fall foliage was fantastic — on its own, completely worth the price of admission.

I love Seattle for its reasonable size; you can hit a number of great neighborhoods on foot (provided you are wearing comfy shoes), and Ballard (my personal favorite) is just a short express bus ride away.

There are several cinemas in the heart of downtown, and I took advantage of them while I was there. (I know, I shouldn’t have to travel all the way to Seattle to see a movie, but at home it’s something I often SAY I want to do yet don’t get around to.)

My sole misstep was laying down good money to see Diana. I was looking for something a little mindless and frivolous. Be careful what you wish for…

Image of Naomi Watts as Princess DianaThere are so many things wrong with the film, I could go on and on, but that would harsh my lingering vacation buzz. However, I feel it’s my duty to share a few thoughts, to caution others against parting with $12 to see a bad, bad movie. I would have walked out, except my feet were still aching from a day spent playing tourist.

Diana follows the formula of the Academy Award winning film The Queen, zeroing in on a brief period in a public figure’s otherwise full life. That’s where the similarities end, though. Diana is less examination than fairy tale: lonely princess falls for a commoner, and temporarily escapes her claustrophobic life in a fishbowl — but the romance is doomed. It may sound similar to the classic Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck film, Roman Holiday, except it’s set in London. And it’s no holiday.

The casting of Naomi Watts was… interesting. She is blonde with blue eyes, but that’s where the physical similarities to the late Princess of Wales end. Watts is petite, whereas Princess Diana stood over 6 feet in heels, so it was hard to suspend my disbelief as other characters towered over her in the film.

Watts was also given a regrettable last-millennium hairstyle. OK, Princess Diana had some big hair back in the day, but this was more like a bad wig. What was up with that?

I like Naomi Watts in most of her films (except Mulholland Drive, perhaps my least favorite movie of all time), but in this case she seems to be imitating rather than embodying the Princess. Occasionally she’d nail a mannerism and I’d sort of catch my breath — but it wasn’t enough to draw me in, because the plot was so trite.

By all accounts, Princess Diana was a complicated, demanding, and sometimes emotionally volatile woman. I’ve read that part of the appeal of Hasnat Khan was the banality of his life. During their romance, she was reportedly delighted by how many interesting people she met queuing up (in disguise) for everyday things. Was her longing for normalcy and anonymity real, or just a distraction from her many personal problems? Would the novelty have lasted had she survived? (Her behavior in the last month of her life — lounging on a yacht and alerting the press to her whereabouts to maximize exposure — suggests not.) Anyway, the film doesn’t explore this at all.

So, my recommendation is visit Seattle (yes, yes, yes) but give Diana a miss. Rain or shine, there must be better ways to spend $12. May I suggest a trip to the famous Top Pot Doughnuts for a pumpkin flavored old fashioned? Twelve dollars will get you a lot of doughnuts.

You’re welcome.

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