UK Release Date: 20th September 2013
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writer: Stephen Jeffreys
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews
Synopsis: The tale of the People’s Princess and the love affair with a heart surgeon that kept her in the public eye during the later years of her life.
Royal biopics are like catnip for the Academy. When mediocre films like The King’s Speech walk away with glistening statuettes, it’s only logical to attribute their success to America’s fascination with British royalty. However, Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s biopic of Princess Diana is one that probably won’t trouble the awards ceremonies. Although the Razzies might have a look.
Diana (Naomi Watts) is reeling from her husband Prince Charles’s affair and the struggles she is having to see her children. By chance, she runs into heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) and begins a romance that sent the news media into a feeding frenzy.
Diana is a baffling film. It’s as if they got the writer, director, cast and everyone else involved into a room and they all agreed not to really bother too much. It’s not possible that a team of such talented individuals could fire on all cylinders and produce something as utterly and infuriatingly terrible as this.
The script is possibly the laziest thing ever committed to celluloid. Every line of Diana is smothered with cheese and sugary sweetness in such a way that it overwhelms every other aspect of the movie. Some of the lines are outright clunkers and the performers are visibly battling to be better than the absolute drivel that they’re being forced to spout.
Naomi Watts is immensely irritating in the central role. Grappling with the aforementioned terrible script, her performance very quickly reduces itself to nothing but elegant hair and coquettish head tilting. She’s also not even close to good enough in the role for it to be okay that she looks absolutely nothing like Diana. Naveen Andrews is also emotionless and incredibly boring as the heart surgeon apparently charming enough to woo the People’s Princess.
The problem that Diana has is that it never really seems to be going anywhere. By starting in Paris, it places an enormous elephant right into the middle of the room and ensures that every event is simply part of the inexorable journey towards that tunnel. It gives Diana’s relationship with Hasnat an air of pointlessness. She’s going to die soon anyway, so why should any of this matter?
Hirschbiegel’s direction is all over the shop and there are some truly bizarre editing choices. This is all made worse by a silly narrative structure and an over-reliance on winks and nods to familiar history.
Diana is a film that probably did need to be made and there’s no substance to Hirschbiegel’s claims that the bad reviews are due to Diana’s death still being a “trauma” for the Brits.
A film about Diana isn’t a bad thing, but this film about Diana definitely is.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.