Twitter Plot Summary: The tale of the last two years of Diana’s life, focusing on her relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Key Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Charles Edwards, Daniel Pirrie, Cas Anvar, Juliet Stevenson.
Five Point Summary:
1. A long series of shots where we don’t see her face, it’s a good start.
2. A picture of a heart in Gray’s Anatomy. Subtle? Nah.
3. Some funnies from Diana’s security detail. More of that would’ve been good.
4. Is that Benedict Cumberbatch playing Sonia? Nope, it’s still Juliet Stevenson.
5. Blimey, Dodi Al Fayed doesn’t get much to do. It’s a conspiracy!
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. I’d heard from a few sources that this film was terrible, yet curiosity got the better of me and I duly trudged off to the cinema to experience what I fully expected to be a train wreck. After seeing it though I can’t call it a train wreck, but “mundane” would be more appropriate. It starts in turgid territory and doesn’t escape from Channel 5/Hallmark Channel levels of quality.
Hamstrung by a poor script, there’s only so much the cast can do with what they’re given. Watts and Andrews are earnest in their portrayals of Diana and heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, but when the dialogue is primarily clunky romantic clichés that don’t let up, if you have any sense in your body you quickly lose interest. One chap even walked out of my cinema viewing after 20 minutes. This surprised me more because he had a huge carrier bag full of sweets and snacks, so he clearly intended to be in there for the long haul yet something made him just get up and walk out. I think the display of protest occurred when Diana opens Gray’s Anatomy and the book falls open on a picture of the heart. Because, you know, that’s what the film is all about, matters of the heart. Not subtle enough for you? Well how about the fact there’s only one heart on that page, perhaps a hint of subtext that loneliness plays a part in said love-related matters? Perhaps it’s a metaphor for Diana’s loneliness following all the Prince Charles/Camilla business? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it again?
That brings me onto my biggest gripe – she’s so desperate to be with this man that she absorbs all of his hobbies and interests like she’s the creature from The Thing, yet he doesn’t reciprocate. She cooks for him (or tries to), takes an interest in surgery and jazz, puts wigs on so she can meet him in public, and he gives back almost nothing other than a constant stream of “I wish I knew how to quit you!” type platitudes. The difference here being that Brokeback Mountain is Oscar-winning cinema and – shock horror – is both compelling and entertaining.
It gets worse. If you could sit through all two hours of it (and it’s a painful two hours) and laugh at how silly it is, then fine. Alternatively, which I’m sure was supposed to be the plan, to sit through the whole thing and be utterly enthralled by the drama and enjoy it on the same level as something like The Queen. Neither happens. It is neither so bad it’s good, nor is it a possible Oscar contender. It just sits around the mediocre line with almost no discernible appeal.
Diana apologists or the Daily Express can cool their heels – there’s nothing actually inflammatory about this portrayal of her life. In fact, the most inflammatory aspect is how it treats Dodi Al Fayed. He gets a few minutes of screen time and only seems to exist so Diana can make Khan (KHAAAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!! Sorry, had to get that out of my system) jealous. I don’t know the exact circumstances, but I’m sure there was more to it than that in reality. Perhaps tellingly the film doesn’t make me want to care about this at all. Diana’s relationship with the media is also played upon, although her attempts at controlling it are ultimately futile and the implication from the film is that she didn’t have a clue what she was doing, perhaps even ultimately leading to those fateful events on the night of 31 August 1997? I’m hypothesising again, sorry. Meanwhile, KHAAAAAANNNN!!!!! Sits at home in London, smoking a lot and staring out of his window. It’s a struggle to get through to the end credits. If any of it had been remotely compelling then I wouldn’t mind the romance story at all. It’s ham-fisted, no doubt about it. The chap who walked out after 20 minutes clearly knew where it was heading and chose to save his evening rather than experience a level of boredom only reserved for the mentally unhinged. Fair play, that man.
Ultimately, when the only emotional resonance in a film is seeing the general public laying flowers outside Diana’s residence after the accident (should I be calling it a Road Traffic Collision seeing as accident implies blame? Thanks, Hot Fuzz. Sorry, I’ve gone off on a tangent)… er, where was I? Oh yeah, emotional resonance. Ahem. When the only emotional residence is people paying their respects right at the very end of the film, it’s clear that something hasn’t worked. It’s a shame too, because Oliver Hirschbiegel is the director of the frankly excellent Downfall so we know he is capable of quality. I don’t have any problems with the fact that a film has been made about Diana, in fact in the right hands it has potential to be a gripping story, full of melodrama and relationship-related intrigue. Given how good Downfall was, I expected more from Hirschbiegel, and that’s probably the biggest letdown of all.
My wish to have Naveen Andrews torture somebody for information didn’t come to pass. It might have been a vast departure from actual events, but it would have at least made the film interesting. Very disappointed that this didn’t come to pass. And Naomi Watts doesn’t really look like Diana. There, I said it. Now move along, there is literally nothing to see here. Literally nothing.
Favourite scene: Oh dear… erm… look over there, something interesting is happening in a DIFFERENT film! (runs away)
Quote: “STOP. THE CAR!” That full stop was deliberate, by the way. It gets recognition for being my quote for this film just because, in context, it’s almost hilarious. The best quote is from the security
Silly Moment: Diana, emotional and romantically distraught, runs home to play Bach on the piano.