'Diana' the film: How bad could it be? - Macleans.ca

‘Diana’ the film: How bad could it be?

Our royal watcher on a truly horrid film about the Windsor clan


As I left the theatre in London after seeing Diana, only one thing flashed through my mind: I need to apologize to Madonna for calling her royal flick, W.E., a “fawning, laughably incorrect” mess. Because when it comes to a truly horrid film about the Windsor clan, nothing can top Diana.

I’d scanned the reviews and knew the British critics had been unsparing in their reaction to the 113-minute film. The Independent said the characters were “psychologically inert” and the dialogue “leaden, trite,” while the Daily Mail said it was without “the slightest aptitude for romance.” The kindest, from the Guardian, talked of “conspicuously poor dialogue in the average script” of a “excrutiatingly well-intentioned, reverential and sentimental” movie. But when it comes to royalty on film, anything short of Helen Mirren in a Peter Morgan-written classic, The Queen, tends to get short shrift. So maybe Diana wasn’t going to win an Oscar, but could it be that bad?

Within 30 seconds, the answer hit: yes, it really is that awful. A Harlequin-esque TV movie of the week about a Russian supermodel falling for a cowboy while on a Wild West photo shoot would be more believable.

It opens with Diana leaving the Ritz hotel in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997 for that fateful car ride with Dodi Fayed. She’s striding down a hallway when she stops, then dramatically looks into the camera. But there’s no tension, no frisson of danger–“Don’t get into a car driven by a drunk driver who will speed recklessly through the French capital. Wear your seat belt.”

Then it flashes back to the start of her romance with Pakistani-British heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. She’s separated from Charles, and about to give that famously ill-advised interview where she claims there were three in the marriage–her, Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Left unsaid was that she took lovers during the marriage before her husband returned to Camilla. Or that she stalked another lover to the point that the police were involved.

Diana’s modus operandi was set: she wants something, she pursues it with a frightening intensity that would send any ordinary person running for a restraining order, then when the object of her desire raises problems, she dumps him or her and moves on. It happened time and time again in her life. By her death she was estranged from her entire Spencer family, most of her friends and had lost most of her most professional advisers. She was Icarus, flying higher and higher, irrespective of the danger.

Why Naomi Watts took the role is unknown. She believes she was channelling the late princess of Wales. Certainly she nailed her impetuous behaviour, for that’s the only explanation of why Watts signed on to the film without realizing the script was unbelievably saccharine and the characters undeveloped. Viewers never understand why Diana and Khan are attracted to each other. And that problem isn’t helped by an inexplicable jump in the script. Just as they enter into a secret relationship, the film jumps forward by a year, with Diana in Angola promoting the elimination of land mines. Why did she suddenly believe so passionately in that cause? Has Khan pushed her? There are no answers.

The movie just flits from scene to scene, with no arching theme or tension. The Diana on the big screen is an advert for the mental health services–she’s out of control as she “drops” by the hospital at 3 a.m. to see Khan coming out of surgery; after one split, when he refuses to return her calls, she breaks into his apartment and decides obsessive cleaning is the way back into his heart. She’s only happy when things are going her way. The problems–she’s a celebrity, he craves privacy, she’s Christian and mother of the future head of the Church of England, he’s from a traditional Muslim family in Pakistan–are telegraphed over and over until the final split almost comes as a relief.

Where the film comes alive is at the very end. After a mope following the breakup, she tells one of her New Age friends that she’s finally ready to love. It’s as though she’s finally grown up. But her makeover lasts just that one scene. Soon Diana, in a pique, accepts an invitation by Dodi Fayed to cruise the Mediterranean on his family yacht. Eager to hurt Khan as intensely as she was hurt by his rejection, she tips off the press so they can document the “growing relationship.” But that doesn’t maker her happy, because Khan doesn’t call (as if jumping into bed with another Muslim man would impress him or his family). She’s again miserable. And then comes that tunnel in Paris.


‘Diana’ the film: How bad could it be?

  1. I don’t think the world is ready for a Diana with warts, even yet — in other words, too soon to be honest, so we’re caught in a sugary confection of ball gowns and romance. As to why the very talented Naomi Watts would take on the role — well, terrific actors aren’t always good at picking scripts, as we have seen from Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, and many other incredibly talented actors we have seen in atrocious or boring films.

  2. My favourite review was just 4 words long….’Barbara Cartland meets Bollywood’

  3. And I’ve read WAY more in depth reviews, that were not run-on and reflected actual writing talent……”maker her happy”……???
    The driver wasn’t drunk, the Mercedes was stolen 2 weeks prior to the crash and happened to be ” the only” vehicle available through the very specifically chosen car rental company that night, the car was tampered with, the authorities refused to allow Mercedes techs to even see the vehicle, the scene was cleared and washed within hours of the crash, an 11 minute ambulance ride to the hospital took close to two hours, the driver was ordered to slow down on the way, he was ordered to stop completely, minutes away from the hospital because “her condition was so severe”. Her body was embalmed overnight which is illegal in France, the reason being that Charles, her sisters, and the president were arriving to view the body. Other assassination attempts have occurred in Europe, the cars behaved in the SAME way as when the Mercedes crashed into the 13th pillar, by having a microchip placed in the hood to override the computer. The Princess of Moracco, Grace Kelly, who was the high priestess of a cult threatening to leave in the 80’s was murdered this way. An attempt to kill Camilla in a car crash happened two weeks prior to Diana’s crash failed, she didn’t stay at the scene, she fled because she knew she was in danger. A year before Diana’s crash she wrote two letters and gave one to her lawyer and one to her trusted butler that said she suspected her life was in danger and that she believed her husband was going to stage a car accident to kill her. MI 5 involvement was all over the conspiracy.
    She did’t look concerned in the last moments of hotel footage because it was so shady and sudden…. It was supposed to be a quick drive to Dodi’s apartmentment. A white Fiat was seen lingering at the tunnel entrance and went in the tunnel with the Mercdeds, navigated around the wreck without leaving any tire skid marks and was seen exiting, and vanished. She was murdered because she was used as a puppet all those years, then finally spoke against the Monarchy and was willing to take down a multi-billion dollar landmine industry.
    It was the biggest modern day cover up ever and I have the feeling that Hollywood is being used to discredit her further….
    I didn’t really care about it before, but after watching 5 hours worth of various documentaries, it is quite clear, and infuriating that those with so much power think that the masses are so stupid to believe their lies.

    • Monaco* oops. Obviously not Morocco…

  4. A most tragic figure, really, and, while the movie may do justice to that, it doesn’t add much to the brief status she enjoyed with her “causes”. Please, let her rest in peace!!