Film Review: Diana

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Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews & Douglas Hodge

I suppose I can use the thesaurus feature on Microsoft word and just put in as many synonyms for ‘Shitbox of a movie’ as possible, though I have my doubts that Microsoft will acknowledge ‘shitbox’ as a word. Some movies, you know they give you so much to eviscerate in their shitness, that you could write 3000 words if you want. Not this movie, which is completely incompetent but in the most tedious, boring way possible that I don’t know. I think I’m gonna struggle. I’ll probably just hide behind a meta bit in the opening paragraph, you know I can pretend that’s a joke and waste 200 words at the same time. Anyway, here goes…

Diana tells the story of Diana (Watts) the one time princess of Wales, or ‘Princess Di’ to those who want to create a false sense of familiarity to a person they didn’t know. Or more specifically it’s the story of Diana’s secret love affair with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews from Lost) prior to her death in Paris in 1997. And that’s pretty much all it’s about. There’s no real attempt to make this film actually about Diana, where she comes from, who she was etc, and the way the film was structured it reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. A gooey, romantic tragedy of little substance, those horribly written ‘banter’ scenes where the two lovebirds get to know each other, before we get the numerous artificial relationship difficulties until eventually someone gets cancer. Then they forgive each other, realise they were meant for each other all along except it’s too late because someone has cancer and then they die. It’s like that basically, except replacing cancer with a real life loss of someone who was an important figure to a lot of people.

Watts is certainly a visual doppelganger for Diana, I don’t think they could have done much better in that department, and she’s certainly a capable enough actress to do the role justice in other circumstances. But here, well, the role is horribly written. According to this movie, Diana was a spineless figure, someone who defines herself by her man and someone who couldn’t exist without one. I didn’t know Diana personally, so I can’t verify whether that is the actual case or not, but it certainly feels like it’s not. This was someone who divorced a royal douchebag and walked into a minefield in front of a worldwide audience, after all. Watts can’t really do anything but play what she’s given and thus goes down in flames thanks to the terrible writing around her.

Naveen Andrews is an actor who I am a big fan of and I think he is the best thing about this movie. He always got the short shrift on Lost in terms of screen time, despite excelling the few times he got to take centre-stage. Even in the show’s dreadful final season, Andrews remained unblemished, his episode the lone positive in a sea of failure. He was also the best thing about the smugly terrible Planet Terror, but just like then, being the best thing about a terrible movie isn’t actually worth that much in stock. Andrews creates a character here and does his best to keep a stiff upper lip, even with the dreadfully mawkish material he’s given.

The film is terrible because it’s made some bizarre choices in its focus, it’s approach to Diana is skewed– making her a very small woman, a victim in every sense of the word and allowed close to no moments of on-screen strength – and ultimately because it’s terribly written. And when that’s the case, there’s just nowhere to hide. The script is insipid, melodramatic and at times feels like a piece of tame eroti-lit written by someone with a Royal Family crush but who kind of hates women. I hate biopics at the best of times, but when they’re like this…forget about it.

Rating: 1.5/5

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