out of Five
Running time: 113
Diana is laughably cheesy in places and the central romance doesn't quite convince, but Watts ensures that it's never less than watchable and it's ultimately worth seeing for its inherent curiosity value.
What's it all about?
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (who made Downfall – supply your own joke about the Nazis and the Royal family here), Diana stars Naomi Watts as Princess Diana, who falls in love with jazz-loving, chain-smoking Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) after her divorce from Prince Charles (who doesn't appear in the film). Though Diana works hard to keep their relationship a secret, Hasnat baulks at the pressures that come with dating the world's most famous woman and tensions arise between them, exacerbated further by their cultural differences.
Playing Diana was always going to be an uphill task and Naomi Watts does the best she can under difficult circumstances; she captures at least something of her accent and mannerisms, but ends up playing her more like a romcom heroine (there are shades of Bridget Jones) than the People's Princess. That said, credit is due to the film's hair and make-up department, who do a terrific job recreating Diana's iconic hair-dos and mascara.
Andrews is on less sure ground, forced to deliver teeth-grindingly awful lines such as ‘You don't perform the operation – the operation performs you’ and failing to spark any real chemistry with Watts. As for the rest of the supporting cast, no-one else really gets a look-in, though Geraldine James and Juliet Stevenson are effective as Diana's confidantes and Douglas Hodge is hilariously blank-faced as Diana's ever-present butler, Paul Burrell.
The film's most amusing moments come in the smaller details (Diana cooks beans! Diana says ‘bollocks’! Diana puts on a long brunette wig and enjoys a night on Old Compton St!), but the script is frustratingly reductive overall and barely scratches the surface of the film it could have been. Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) is a particular casualty in this regard; the script reduces him to the status of a rich man with a boat that Diana uses to make Hasnat jealous after their break-up by ensuring the paparazzi get ‘secret’ photos of them together.
On top of that, the film strongly implies that Hasnat was the impetus behind Diana using her media profile to highlight important issues (her landmines photo op is recreated faithfully here), which rather goes against the accepted image of Diana as a master manipulator of the media well before Hasnat came along. Indeed, long-time Diana fans will find much to complain about and it's hard to shake the feeling that there were several other Diana stories more worthy of the big screen treatment.
Though perhaps not the Diana film that fans will be expecting (essentially, it's a soapy, somewhat cheesy romance), this is also not the disaster the slew of terrible reviews would have you believe and Watts' performance ensures that it's never less than watchable.