UK critics have lashed Diana, the biopic starring Naomi Watts as Princess Diana, pouring scorn on the performances, screenplay and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s direction.

The film, which opens in Australia on October 10 via the Becker Film Group, was almost universally panned after its world premiere in London on Thursday night.

Stephen Jeffreys’ screenplay based on the Kate Snell book Diana – Her Last Love charts the two years leading up to her death in 1997, focusing on her affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews).

“Poor Princess Diana,” declared The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “I hesitate to use the term ‘car crash cinema.’ But the awful truth is that, 16 years after that terrible day in 1997, she has died another awful death. This is due to an excruciatingly well-intentioned, reverential and sentimental biopic about her troubled final years, laced with bizarre cardboard dialogue – a tabloid fantasy of how famous and important people speak in private.

“The movie isn't so much Mills & Boon as a horrendous Fifty Shades of Grey with the S&M sex taken out – and replaced with paparazzi intrusion and misunderstood charity work.”

The Daily Mirror’s David Edwards opined, “Producers and star of the film Naomi Watts were said to be expecting an onslaught of criticism before the movie's release – so they're well prepared because biopic Diana is fabulously awful. The Queen of Hearts has been recast as a sad-sack singleton that even Bridget Jones would cross the street to avoid.”

Edwards acidly observed that Watts “sounds and acts nothing like the Princess of Wales. Wesley Snipes in a blonde wig would be more convincing.”

Digital Spy’s Emma Dibdin sniffed, “For all the histrionics she's driven to as the story progresses, Watts's Diana never feels more than skin-deep; she's a character without inner life, and what Watts gives is an impression, not a performance.”

Variety's Charles Grant was equivocal, stating, "While mostly swerving past the pitfall of tastelessness, this sincerely intended account of the last two years of Princess Diana’s life risks an even more perilous roadblock: dullness. Still, the tony credentials, including lead thesp Naomi Watts’s two Oscar nods, provide a handy alibi for upscale audiences eager to have their fill of royal rumpus, but anxious that Diana might merely be trash TV on a bigger budget."

Of the initial batch of reviews, the most positive was The Independent‘s Geoffrey McNab, who said, “Diana works well enough as a dark romantic drama and is far less exploitative than it might have been. Naomi Watts gives an intense and volatile performance as the princess. The problem, though, is that she doesn’t really resemble the character she is playing, and the film shifts wildly in tone.”

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