The Crown - Photo Netflix
The Crown – Photo Netflix

The global soap-opera known as the British Royal Family continues with “The Crown:  Season 6, Part 1,” revolving around the final days of Diana, Princess of Wales (Elizabeth Debicki), and her ill-fated romance with Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) back in the summer of 1997.

What’s fascinating – and unexpected – is how series creator Peter Morgan focuses on the persistent photographers whom doe-eyed Diana, at first, courted, then despised, and how the austere Queen (Imelda Staunton) and Prince Charles (Dominic West) eventually participated in the social media frenzy.

Apparently, after the tabloids were filled with Diana canoodling with Dodi in St. Tropez, Prince Charles agreed to counterstrike with staged photographs of Prince William and Prince Harry at Balmoral Castle in Scotland – in addition to trying to gain public acceptance of his on-going affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. 

So how do viewers separate fact from fiction? Let’s examine some salient points:

FACT: When Mohamed al-Fayed summoned his eldest son Dodi to his Jonikal yacht, Dodi was engaged to model Kelly Fisher, who later sued him, alleging breach of contract. 

FICTION: The manipulative father/son conversations, Dodi’s ambivalence and Diana’s articulate empathy are figments of Peter Morgan’s imagination. However, as shown in earlier seasons, Mohamed al-Fayed was obsessed with the Royals, hiring King Edward VIII’s former valet and then buying/restoring Edward & Wallis’s former Paris home, renaming it Villa Windsor.

FACT: Diana enjoyed psychic readings with Rita Rogers, a Derbyshire medium of Romany origin, and Dodi accompanied her to one on August 12, 1977. Ms. Rogers had told her she would meet a man of foreign descent with the initial ‘D’ and that man would be connected with the film industry. Dodi was impressed and intrigued.

FICTION: Peter Morgan deduced their conversation from various reports.

FACT: Dodi bought Diana a ring in Paris and proposed marriage; that ring inscribed with ‘Dis-Moi Oui’ (‘Tell Me Yes’) was later found in his flat.

FICTION:  When, how and why Dodi proposed was dramatized, along with Diana’s response. From “Elvis” to “Oppenheimer” to “Napoleon,” biopic writers fictionalize dialogue because no one knows exactly who said what to whom.

FACT: In his memoir “Spare,” Prince Harry wrote that when Prince Charles broke the tragic news, he didn’t hug his son: “He wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis?…Pa didn’t hug me but his hand did fall once on my knee and he said, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ That was quite a lot for him…And so very untrue.”

FICTION: Prince Charles is shown being openly affectionate in comforting Princes William and Harry after their mother’s death. 

So what about the appearance of Diana’s ‘ghost,’ a spirit haunting not only Prince Charles but also the Queen? Cheesy melodrama!

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Crown: Season 6, Part 1” is an irresistible 8 – with four episodes streaming on Netflix.

Fingernails - Photo Apple TV+
Fingernails – Photo Apple TV+

As a critic, I’ve seen wretched sci-fi romantic dramedies – but few as ludicrous and repugnant as Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou’s  “Fingernails.”

The premise is simple: What if technology could determine whether you and your partner are perfectly matched and in love? Would it matter to you if that simple test involved ripping out one of your fingernails – without anesthesia?

Unemployed teacher Anna (Jesse Buckley) is in a long-term relationship with Ryan (Jeremy Allen White). While their nightly routine of cuddling on the couch and watching nature documentaries has grown a bit tedious, Anna still thinks they’re happy. After all, they tested ‘positive’ for compatibility three years ago.

Nevertheless when Anna tells Ryan she’s starting a new job, she indicates that it’s at a local elementary school when, actually, she’s started training at the Love Institute, the company that administers the love-certification tests. Why does she lie? Good question.

Anna’s idealistic boss Duncan (Luke Wilson) assigns her to work with instructor Amir (Riz Ahmed) who shows her the way to counsel couples, encourage their intimacy and, inevitably, how to remove one of their fingernails with pliers. 

The bloody severed nails are then placed in a microwave-like computer that whirrs and beeps, determining whether the couple gets a 100% score (meaning they’re really in love), 50% (meaning that one of them is but the other isn’t) or 0%. When couples get a negative result, they inevitably split up – even if they’re married.

The emotional and physical attraction between Anna and Amir is immediately obvious, along with the tortuous dilemma they’ll eventually face.

Best known for “The Lost Daughter” and “Women Talking,” Jesse Buckley is a lovely actress, so it’s startling to see how writer/director Christos Nikou (“Apples”) – making his English-language debut – saddles her with a garish hairstyle/fright wig. Perhaps it’s because Nikou apprenticed with director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”), also known for his grotesquely bizarre visuals.

Too bad Jeremy Allen White’s (“The Bear”) and Riz Ahmed’s (“Sound of Metal”) roles are so superficial.

On the Granger Gauge, “Fingernails” is a futile 4, streaming on Apple TV+.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.