Trying to find something to like about ‘Diana’

Diana trailer review.

These aren’t the words of the Queen spoken to Prince ‘I urinate in my fuel tank’ Charles upon meeting Miss Windsor for the first time, but the task I set myself upon viewing the ‘Diana’ trailer. The film may have disappeared without scratching the surface of any box office in any country, but as the primary ‘buzz’ generator for any movie, did the trailer fail this film by not covering up its faults, as trailers routinely manage to make a terrible film look incredible, or were the problems just too numerous to hide.

The trailer starts with music in the key of twee. It is the kind of music that ignorant people believe sum up the UK perfectly. That plinkedy, plonkedy, plink piano, which, for some reason, has become associated with an idealised view of England where everyone wears tweed, owns a ‘Roller’ and has tea and crumpets with The Queen on an hourly basis. Its inclusion is borderline insulting, underestimating the intelligence of the international audience whilst simultaneously ignoring a home grown audiences knowledge of their own country which, incidentally, is, and was even in the time of Diana, totally and utterly f***ed.

Cut in on a bird’s eye view of Windsor Castle, though it could be any stately home, which then fades into a bird’s eye view of a woman wearing a large, blonde wig on a red carpet. It is unclear at this point if the two have any correlation, maybe this is the story of a beautiful house that can transform into a beautiful woman in order to go to parties – oh, if only.

Flash bulbs pop and the wig wearer turns round. It is Naomi Watts. It is Diana.

‘Diana’ then walks through a house and in the most irritatingly righteous, impossibly smug, voice tells all her staff that she wants nothing for dinner and they can all go home, whilst cocking her head to one side like a dog that has heard an unusual noise outside the window.

Silver and gold words appear on a pure, white background – pure, like Diana, white, like Diana. ‘Sometimes the legend…’ Close up of ‘Diana’ taking her shoes off – presumably to show that the lead character, despite holding a title, is just like us as we too take our shoes off at the end of the day, problem is ours are often covered in dog shit – and walks round an impossibly large house on her own. Close up of ‘Diana’ looking sad. More dazzling white, more damp words, ‘…Is not the whole story’. This basically means, ‘Everything in this film is made up,’ so be prepared for outlandish flights of fancy that have no basis in reality, such as the revelation that Diana was the first (wo)man on the moon.

Cut to the titular lady gazing out of a rain soaked window, looking sad. She then takes a phone call on her mobile in the deserted Royal Albert Hall. She mumbles some words about the palace in a way that suggests she doesn’t like being a princess very much – and this is where I gave up. 20 seconds in and I, and presumably everyone else, am already out. And it is this last snap shot of a scene that perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with the film.

The film unintentionally portrays Diana Windsor as a brat. Here is a lady, in every sense of the word, surrounded on all sides by beauty, wealth and luxury, yet she is lonely; fine, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that the way she rebels against this, in the world of the film, is to act like a two year old that has just been told the sweet shop is closed, sulking and pouting her way through every scene. At one point she even stamps her foot and morosely mumbles, “I don’t want to be Queen! I want to help people!” Alright ‘Diana’, how about you are just content to have a thoroughly nice life being waited on hand and foot instead of acting like life within the Royal circle is akin to the workout yard at Guantanamo Bay.

At a time when the economy is in the toilet, unemployment is at a record high and the mood of the nation is one of bitter resentment, the films depiction of a privileged princess rebelling against entitlement is not just utterly misjudged but distasteful in the extreme and, I am afraid, Watts’ performance is partially to blame.

There is no doubting her ability as an actress, she was so perfectly fragile and destructive in Mulholland Drive, and yet here, she puts on a funny voice and walks around with an air of sincerity that is so utterly insincere it feels, and looks, as if she is taking the piss. It really is that simple. Her performance would be more at home on Saturday Night Live than in a ‘serious’ film. All the work the trailer does in attempting to remind us how utterly normal and likeable Diana was, is totally undone by Watts’ apparent belief that Diana was actually a very tall, very rich, seven year old with laryngitis.

The camera work doesn’t do her performance any favours, swooping up and down and round and round, as if it is on some kind of royalty rollercoaster. I am no anti-royal – I personally think the Queen is brilliant and applaud her gang of loveable nitwits, especially Harry, every time they turn up on TV doing something odd – yet each shot helps to create a world so overtly and impossibly lavish, populated with such pompous and outdated stereotyped versions of ‘English people’, that I was crying out for someone, anyone, to tell everyone else to, “F**k off!” just to bring some kind of sense of realism to proceedings. The dialogue of the film may as well be that of the planet Zargon, in so far as that too doesn’t exist anywhere in the Universe. If you want to show how normal Diana was, make her sound normal, not like a robot manufactured in the wine cellar of Sandringham Palace.

Verdict: A biopic works because the world it creates, the world of the real life character, is believable. Diana fails as a trailer, and presumably as a film, because  in a time of economic crisis it is trying to implement an idealised view of a nation that is, and was, never true. When you base an entire film around a fictional story within the life of someone that actually existed, nine times out of ten, you will end up with a film that looks and feels as preposterous as the source material. Sometimes it is better to leave the legend alone. Move along there is nothing to like here.

To pretend you have seen the full film, say: “A royal disappointment. Get it?”

Don’t say: “So which one of the Royals was that giant gorilla meant to be?”


2 thoughts on “Trying to find something to like about ‘Diana’

  1. Jayne

    Stunning review of this British box office smash, so glad I’ve made the ‘Queen of Hearts’ movie top of my Xmas list, only wished they made it in 3D. Anxiously awaiting the sequel.

    1. olivercullen Post author

      My advice is to hold out for the limited edition ‘Smell-O-Vision Blu-ray. The case is rumoured to contain two five pound notes which you can stuff up your nose whilst watching.


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