An examination of the last two years in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales (Naomi Watts).
Oliver Hirschbergel’s preposterous Diana opens on that fateful night at the Paris Ritz. Di fiddles with her earrings, moves from room to room, grips/checks/rechecks her mobile phone, before eventually leaving the heavy handset on the bathroom sink. She joins Dodi and her entourage for a grim walk to the Ritz lift. She hesitates, glances back, ignores her instincts and proceeds as planned into the lift.
The inference is she’s stalling, hoping for a call that never comes (or, wait.... does it?) though we are left to speculate from whom she is waiting to hear...
And speculate is all you’ll continue to do, if you sit out the full 113 minutes (!) of this tawdry PG soap opera, which tries ever so desperately to elevate one of Diana’s final flings to the status of an epic tragedy: that of the doomed union between the princess and heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.
The tale of the abandoned princess who thought she’d found true love with the dashing surgeon who – quite literally – mends broken hearts for a living, might have made for a good yarn, if only it didn’t err on the side of fawning reverence, and fall over itself in deference to its titular character.
There’s not a hint at the 'dirty Diana’ that the women's weeklies made a fortune from following; the famous flirt with the apparently wicked sense of humour. (The closest this incarnation gets is a lame ice-breaker ad-libbed when a big cheque is delayed at a photo-opp.) There’s certainly no hint of the infamous accusations of mutual infidelity during her marriage to Charles (James who?).
Diana reeks of desperate reverence, and its bland attempt not to sully the reputation of any parties living or (especially) dead, renders it completely pointless. (The notable exception to this is Dodi, who barely rates a close-up).
And don't get me started on the dialogue. Notwithstanding the fact that all lovebirds have the potential to sound downright silly to an unintended audience, I’d wager that even Diana’s actual step-grandmother Barbara Cartland would have thought twice at committing some of these sweet nothings to the pages of any of her infamous bodice-rippers.
They meet when Di stops in to check on her friend’s ailing husband and eyes off the handsome attending physician. Before long she’s donning a baby pink suit for a personal tour of the hospital, and chatting up the good doctor with flirty innuendo and a private dinner invitation. After that, they’re always alone - or trying to be - when she sneaks him into Kensington Palace via the backseat of her Audi, having dismissed the cooks for the night and ordered in hamburgers. When they do venture out, it’s to jazz clubs with Di in a weird wig. Alas theirs is an awkward courtship, complicated by nosy snappers and his disapproving family, and her profile engulfs their blossoming relationship.
Hirschbergel makes full use of a steadicam as he shadows his star, traipsing behind Diana’s kitten heels and/or stockinged feet, in a non-too-subtle suggestion that we are somehow 'following in her footsteps’. We’re doing no such thing, of course, but whatever. The bulk of this maudlin melodrama is comprised of invented exchanges between two remote romantics, one of whom couldn’t possibly verify their veracity, and another who has stated plainly that he most definitely didn’t and wouldn’t spill the beans.
Baffingly, Diana is played by the much-better-than-this Naomi Watts, who, with the visual aids of a blonde coif and kohl pencil, manages a passing resemblance, rounded out with an upwards glare and clipped accent, which completes the impersonation. Watts is by no means the worst thing about the film, but let’s just say that the use of her now obligatory 'Academy Award nominee’ prefix in the trailer is the closest this film will come to Oscar glory. Better shot at a Razzie, methinks.