Film Torments: Diana (2013)
FILM Torments earns its moniker justly. No theme for this heady month of August – just crap. All crap. No crap barred. To start us on our merry way, Andrew has a treat: 2013’s Diana.
In recent years, the Monarchy has enthralled Hollywood. The Queen and The King’s Speech prove that the result can be truly special (unless you’re Jozef). But one misstep to come from the royalty filmography is 2013’s Diana, a film with a title that reads like a Daily Express headline. The film takes a look at Diana’s final two years and her relationship with Dr. Hasnat Khan. From Oliver Hirshchbiegel, the director of Downfall (!!!), Diana is a film that not only drags, but brings the audience close to tears, and not for the right reasons.
Let’s clear up one thing firstly; if Naomi Watts had been given a better script, she could have owned the shit out of this film. Her grace and approach to the role is excellent, and if the rest of this film had been worth a dime it could have actually been pretty good. The fact she was nominated for a Razzie while the rest of the film was untouched is a travesty. No, she is not the reason this film fails.
Problems emerge from the very beginning. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you don’t know who Diana, Princess of Wales is (I know, how absurd!). When this film opens there’s not even the slightest indication of: Who this person is; how she came to be in the situation she is in; who her ex-husband is (YOU CAN SAY “CHARLES” AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE, IT WON’T HELP); why she’s so fucking well off and what the hell is going on. Some of these answers are given to us as the film continues, but it’s still a confusing set up if you’re not familiar with Diana’s later years, which most modern, foreign viewers won’t be. Watching Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me would make more sense.
It doesn’t help that the script is DIRE. Diana possesses some of the most bland, boring, basic dialogue in any film I have seen. A flashy leading woman and some half-hearted romance is just not enough to keep the audience entertained, although judging from the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, you’d be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t the case. I don’t care if they talk half heartedly about football or jazz, and I certainly think there’s a more eloquent way of talking about disabled people than saying: “Did they print the pictures of the kids with their legs blown off?”
As a result of this terrible writing, the film becomes even simpler. There’s the obligatory reference to Labour winning the 1997 general election. Random questions about politics are thrown in without any context or explanation. A very small, minor clash between two conflicting cultures. All this and more is added into the script for no particular reason. They add nothing to the plot; they just sit there, like awkward moments jimmied between slag-jawed British folk exclaiming, “LOOK! IT’S LAY-DEE DOI!”
Watts’ Diana is portrayed as a ditzy, out of touch woman who wants to be loved (not by her fault though, of course). “Can a heart really break?” she naively asks Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) before going on to look sad and repeatedly shake her head over some landmine victims. Without actually contributing anything, she insists she “just wants to help people”. It’s a poor tribute to a woman who actually pushed to make a difference to world. Then the writers perform a u-turn, making Diana come across as, quite frankly, a bitch, in the final stretch. With perhaps the only character development in the film, it’s a shockingly bad taste twist that leaves the viewer feeling adequately cheated.
Even with the appalling dialogue taken out of the equation, the film doesn’t do much in building up the relationship between Diana and Dr. Khan. Much like something from The Twilight Saga, the couple flit from love-sick buffoons before one small hitch sends them spiralling into an argument largely reminiscent of a toddler throwing a strop. It’s hard to route for a couple who echo a melodramatic teenage romance, especially when, as already stated, the narrative fails to engage.
Which neatly brings me to my biggest issue with this film. Throughout Diana, Khan acknowledges that he and Diana can never be, because he doesn’t want all the attention. Which begs the question…
WHY WOULD YOU MAKE A FILM ABOUT A MAN WHO DOESN’T WANT TO BE IN THE PUBLIC EYE?
Poor Dr. Khan. Quietly sat in his house one day, he gets a phone call telling him some arsehole is making a film about a relationship he’s attempted to keep under wraps for almost 20 years. He’s already acknowledged that almost the entire story is based on gossip and rumours, thereby debunking any historical accuracy this thing may claim to have. Even if you can sit through the tedious script writing, the lame storyline and basic chemistry between the leads, can you really enjoy it knowing a man’s private life has just been blown wide open?
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