VOD film review: Diana
Ivan Radford | On 24, Sep 2014
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews
Watch Diana online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Every now and then in life, a film comes along that is so terrible it’s fun to watch.
Diana, ostensibly telling the final moments of the Princess of Wales’ life, feels less like a biopic and more like a spoof of a biopic from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone; a 21st century Spitting Image satire in which Thunderbirds-style puppets wobble around for two hours delivering dreadful dialogue from blank faces. It is more wooden than a flat-pack chest of drawers owned by Treebeard.
Naomi Watts gives it a good go in the lead role, donning a wig and make-up and even the semi-posh voice – but she looks nothing like Diana. She looks like Naomi Watts in a wig. A long, teasing, opening shot follows her inside from behind, eventually turning to reveal her face. From that moment, the illusion is ruined; it’s like watching a Team America soap opera rather than a serious drama. You expect Matt Damon to turn up any minute.
The script is no better – in fact, it is the source of the film’s problems, turning the tragic true story of Princess Di into Mills and Boon-style trash. Stephen Jeffreys’ screenplay, based on a book by Kate Snell, examines the affair she had with Dr. Hasnat Khan – but the surgeon dismissed it as inaccurate as soon as the film was released. You can’t blame him; if their relationship were actually anything like this, you would only feel sorrier for them.
Naveen Andrews follows Watts’ lead and delivers the material with intense sincerity, but their commendable straight faces and earnest emoting cannot stop the howlers from screaming off the page. “You don’t perform the operation,” he informs Diana as their courting begins. “The operation performs you.” Nobody bats an eyelid.
Oliver Hirschbiegel shoots it all with graceful aplomb and an austere manner, but the Downfall director seems lost at sea here, unable to generate any tension or excitement from these laughable words. He instead focuses on trying to replicate venues and occasions as believably as possible. Moments where we witness Diana campaigning to remove landmines, contacting the press, or relaxing with Dodi Fayed on his yacht, look realistic enough, but it’s a colourful set populated by cardboard cut-outs of people.
There are hints of something darker, or more substantial – “I’m very fond of foxes,” she quips to Dodi. “They’re like me, we’ve all escaped from the Windsors!” – but Jeffreys’ respectful tone is so worried about being anything else that the movie becomes as bland as a bleached dishcloth. At times, you wish there were three people in their writing room.
Every now and then in life, a film comes along that is so terrible it’s fun to watch. Diana is worse.
Diana is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.