EMMA STREET relives the heady days of 1997 with Naomi Watts. We didn’t get an interview, but she walked out of this review as well.
I am going to assume that all the events depicted in Oliver Hirschbiegal’s Diana are shown exactly as they occurred in real life. That’s how biopics usually work, right? Particularly Royal ones. How else would Peter Morgan have got Her Majesty’s words so spot on in The Queen that they matched Tony Blair’s account of it years later?
Refusing to acknowledge any historical inaccuracies nicely complements my refusal to acknowledge any shockingly bad film-making. To be fair, after a while I just stopped noticing the fatuous dialogue, terrible acting and awkward, ugly direction. It’s like living with a bad smell. You either adapt or go mad.
The film is about the last two years of the life of Diana, the Princess of Wales. It starts three years after her separation from the Prince of Wales and is almost exclusively concerned with love affair between Diana (Naomi Watts) and heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews).
Diana is originally attracted to Khan because of his sexy, sexy job. Heart Surgeons tick all the boxes. They’re clever, they’re sensitive, they do manly things with sharp objects. Plus they save people’s lives, of course. Bitches love that.
Khan charms Di by eating junk food, smoking, watching football and being unawed by her. He’s so unlike anyone she’s ever met before, see? Hardly unique, though. Plenty of men could watch this film and lament the fact that they never got the chance to pop round for dinner at Di’s. “I could have turned up my nose at her cooking and made her watch the footie! That should have been me!”
The big hurdle in their relationship is that she is super-duper famous. Can’t go anywhere without a bunch of cameramen attaching themselves to her like a beard of bees. Khan’s not into all of that nonsense so everything has to be completely secret. They sneak around like, well, like a married woman and a Muslim with traditional parents.
The most unintentionally funny bit of the film (and there are plenty here to choose from) is when Diana dons a long black wig so she and Khan can go to Ronnie Scott’s. As she walks down the street unrecognised in her little sparkly dress, she is beset by wolf-whistles and people shouting “Awlright gorgeous!” She loves it, the little show-off. She really is remarkably easy to please.
The wig works wonders. Her own boyfriend initially doesn’t recognise her. The thing is, Naomi Watts doesn’t look anything like the Princess of Wales. It’s only the hair that makes Watts look remotely Diana-ish in the rest of the film so it’s no wonder that without that she looks completely unrecognisable. I seem to recall that the real Diana did actually have Diana’s face as well as her hair, though, so I don’t think the wig would have worked quite so well in real life.
If the real Hasnat Khan is even slightly like he is portrayed here, he must be pretty pissed off that this film was made. Everyone knows he’s the guy who really valued his privacy. We know this because we have seen him post-sex with Diana looking like that guy off of Lost.
If this film is to be believed (and I refuse to believe otherwise) then everything that happened after the couple’s breakup was still All About Hasnat.
Not only did Diana only date Dodi Fayed in order to make her ex jealous, we find out that if she had stopped to take Khan’s phone call on that fateful night in Paris, then that sorry bit of business in the tunnel might never have happened.
Poor Dodi doesn’t really get a look in as far as this film is concerned. I bet when Cas Anvar found out he’d be playing Dodi in a film about the last couple of years of Diana’s life, he thought he’d hit the big time. In fact, the only requirement is to spend a couple of minutes looking good in swimming trunks and walking down a corridor with an air of foreshadowing.
It’s a similar story for the lads who played Wills and Harry. “I’m going to be in a film about Princess Diana playing one of the people she loves most in the world!” one or both of them must have excitedly told their school mates. Their 5 seconds of screen time hardly repays the effort of being fitted out in 90s-style chinos and convincing Will and Harry hairdos.
Her sons are completely inconsequential to the plot which unfairly makes Diana look like the most neglectful hands-off parent ever. Given that this film has “Odeon Mother and Baby screenings” written all over it, I was originally going to suggest that the Duchess of Cambridge take Prince George to see it if she’s bored one afternoon. (I assume the Duchess reads Mostly Film.) But I’ve given it a bit more thought and, you know, actually, it might be a bit weird.
Diana’s saintliness and absolute adorableness is presented here as a universally accepted truth. She is repeatedly referred to as “the most famous woman in the world”.
“You say you love me!” Diana shouts at Khan during an argument. “Well there are 5 billion other people who can say that!” Whoa, steady on there, Di love, that’s almost everybody in the whole world. And you could probably account for the remaining 1 billion with tiny babies, the mentally infirm, Republicans and remote television-less tribesmen you haven’t got round to visiting yet.
Being adored by five sixths of the world’s population is no easy job. Diana visits the injured, heals the sick, cures the blind, raises the dead and single-handedly rids the world of landmines.
You remember when the Diana documentary was broadcast and we all made a massive social event out of it? Gathering round friend’s televisions and standing shoulder-to-shoulder in pubs in total silence until it was all over and the old guy at the bar said something like “Lawd, lovaduck, that’s torn it and no mistake.” I don’t but maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention at the time. I can’t believe that no-one invited me to their “Watch the Princess Diana Documentary” party, though. Bastards.
It’s like when – and I hate to spoil the ending for you here – Diana was killed in a car crash in the middle of the night. In the film Khan is woken by a phone call in the middle of the night telling him what has happened. Fair enough, you think, it was probably someone who knew the two of them had had a thing. Except it turns out it wasn’t just ex-lovers getting phone calls. We can hear phones ring throughout London and lights turn on in windows as everybody woke one another up at 4 in the morning in order to spread the news of Diana’s death. We were all doing that, apparently. Once again I was out of the loop.
Not to mention, the way that millions of people queued up outside Kensington Palace to place cellophane-wrapped flowers in a massive pile until the whole area looked like a Guinness World Record attempt for the world’s most over-the-top Mayday float.
Oh wait; I do totally remember that happening. See, I told you it was all true.
In making the focus of the film the years after Diana severed ties with the Royal Family and before the country went a bit crazy over her death, this is essentially “Diana: The Not Much Happens Years” Sure, there’s the odd minefield sweep here, the occasional bit of heart surgery voyeurism there. There’s that television programme. But for the most part the film tries to present Diana as a perfectly ordinary person. She hates cooking! She watches Eastenders! Sometimes she walks around with no shoes on!
Diana as an unremarkable person is all too believable. I am happy to accept that she was actually fairly dull and a bit annoying. Still, Khan’s not that great a catch. He’s bossy and moody. The pair of them seem well suited.
It’s a shame things didn’t work out for them. It would have been cool for the future king to have a Muslim stepdad. But you know what they say: Some things in life just turn out horribly. And then Oliver Hirschbiegal makes a shitty film about it
EMMA STREET writes C-List Celebrity Workouts a weekly review of workout DVDs made by celebrities whose talents lie elsewhere