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Movie Review: Diana

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Posted September 29, 2013 by Paul Fennessy in 2013
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Rating

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Overview

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Release Date: 20 September
 

Pros:

It has a nice, restrained score from David Holmes, Naomi Watts gives a respectable central performance, it's visually quite impressive.
 

Cons:

The dialogue is invariably wooden, it overlooks some of the most fascinating aspects of Diana's story, it feels at least half an hour too long.
 

A poorly written and ultimately unsatisfying look at the last two years of Princess Diana’s life.

by Paul Fennessy
Full Article

Until recently, producing a movie about British royalty seemed an almost sure-fire way to get considerable recognition from the Academy Awards – The Queen, Mrs Brown, A Man for all Seasons, The Madness of King George and The King’s Speech are some of the many examples of this phenomenon.

Yet, of late, a new trend has emerged — the concept is the same, only the execution is far more inept. Therefore, Hyde Park on Hudson was so awful that it was inconceivable it could win any award other than a Razzie. Similarly, it would be a near-miracle if a movie as mediocre as Diana receives significant acknowledgement come May.

The story is one anyone over the age of 20 is likely have a basic knowledge of already – Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles is on the verge of ending, and she is finding the inevitable fallout difficult to endure. She takes solace by beginning a secretive romance with Pakistani heart surgeon, Dr Hasnat Khan, after some brief flirting between the pair during a visit to a sick friend in hospital. Nevertheless, the privacy that Hasnat yearns for is not forthcoming thereafter. On the contrary, the nature of their relationship comes under increased media scrutiny as rumours abound that the two are romantically involved. Consequently, Hasnat is continually contemplating putting an end to their sporadic meet-ups, as he feels that the pressure which they entail is having a negative impact on his already taxing work life.

So how bad is Diana? Is the scathing early buzz to be believed? Despite occasional bright spots, it is indeed fairly woeful, which is somewhat surprising given that it is directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel – the man behind the fantastic Downfall. Chief among its problems is that it appears to have been written by someone who cannot write. The dialogue is often horribly stilted and there are several outright clangers that are likely to unwittingly inspire laughter. At one point, Hasnat shows Diana round the hospital and explains his thoughts on undertaking the arduous task of performing surgery. “You do not perform the operation, the operation performs you,” he says, in what is undoubtedly one of the worst lines of dialogue in recent memory. And being a heart surgeon, there are of course some cheesy references to him fixing broken hearts, et cetera, which are also likely to make the audience cringe.

And to make matters worse, for the most part, it seems as if the actors know how bad the writing is, as they often look less than comfortable delivering their speech. This applies, in particular, to Naveen Andrews – indeed, he is given the majority of the film’s most inane dialogue, and consequently, his speech is slow and unconvincing, and his lines are frequently fluffed.

The structure of the story is far from accomplished either, and it doesn’t really feel suited to a mainstream movie. The ending, naturally, is very downbeat, though it feels disappointingly unsatisfying for several reasons other than the obvious one. Her relationship with Dodi Fayed is glossed over for the most part. It merely conforms to the established consensus that Diana was only going out with the son of an Egyptian billionaire to get back at Hasnat, without attempting to explore it in any real detail. Hence, one of the central components of the Diana narrative is rather disappointingly treated almost as an afterthought. Similarly, she talks about how much she loves William and Harry, but they only come on screen briefly, while Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth do not appear at all.

Of course, more or less overlooking these crucial elements of the story could conceivably be justified if the main plot was particularly strong, but instead, screen time is wasted away with several pointless tracking shots and a dull, soap opera-esque romance. By the end, it seems as if the unhappy couple are having the same tiresome argument continually with little in the way of plot development – namely, that the pressure of fame is too heavy a burden for Hasnat to attempt to make the relationship work. And all this repetitive moaning suggests the film could have lost at least half an hour, so by the time the words ‘Paris 1997’ comes up on screen,  the predominant feeling is unfortunately relief rather than sadness.

Are there any redeeming features? ‘Redeeming’ is perhaps too strong a word, but certainly, it’s a very lush-looking film and Naomi Watts deserves to be excused from all the opprobrium that is coming the film’s way. She manages to genuinely resemble Diana and captures her mannerisms perfectly. She performs every false smile and head tilt with a level of conviction that is largely absent from other aspects of the film.

Yet, aside from Watts’ star turn, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the movie was a waste of time for everyone involved. So, as was the case with the Caped Crusader after the dreadful and poorly received Batman and Robin, perhaps it’s time that the movie business ends its obsession with British royalty indefinitely.


About the Author

Paul Fennessy

Paul likes films, books, music and artsy stuff in general. He also likes writing about those subjects, preferably typing at 100 miles an hour while simultaneously slurping coffee and checking his Twitter stream.

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