The last two years of Diana, Princess of Wales, are rendered as a revelation of The Secret Love That Cannot Be with a Pakistani heart surgeon and a calculated flight with Dodi Fayed, in an archetypal poor little rich girl tale of a forlorn princess who just wants to be loved.
Even if one goes into Diana with no axe to grind, one is in for a shock of the dreariest kind. Even a combination of creative freedom, artistic licence, the oversight of Downfall's director and a world-class actress in Naomi Watts fail to trump questionable taste, extravagant establishment / media opprobrium and a screenplay based on tittle-tattle.
Watts presumably felt she could do with Diana what Meryl Streep did with Margaret Thatcher. Wrong! The costumes are spot on but little else is, so we are never under the illusion that we are in Diana’s life or her pretty head. As events plod a Mills-and-Boon, low-brow and soapy path to their fatal Parisian conclusion, it’s very episodic, with scenic diversions between furtive trysts of Diana and Andrews’s manly, upright Haznat Khan for some snogging and much soul-searching over takeaway burgers. Diana globetrots in humanitarian causes: oh look, we’re in Angola, Sydney, Sardinia!
The only remotely moving bits are those of public record that remind us of Diana’s compassion for the suffering, such as her walk through a minefield. The intimacies suggested by the tell-all butler (Hodge), a confidant who seems to be Di’s reflexologist (James) and an unidentifiable “close friend” (Stevenson) yield preposterous, inappropriately hilarious scenes of Di hiding in a car boot, a distraught Di bashing out Bach on the piano or Di dashing, tearful and barefoot, through central London alone at night. Perhaps she did those things but - rather a problem for a drama - they don’t play as credible. And no-one need be concerned about the Royal Family’s feelings, they can take care of themselves and are barely alluded to. The person one feels truly sorry for is Dr. Khan, evidently a very private man, whose worst nightmare this film must be.
More terrible and tacky than one could have imagined, it will soon be forgotten and consigned to the True Movies channel to play alongside television movies about Karen Carpenter, Jayne Mansfield and Jackie Kennedy.