Most biopics that focus on a public figure try their utmost to release a film that would either improve public opinion of that person, pay tribute to them or uncover something deeper about their life and personality. This is undoubtedly a bit harder when your subject is the late Princess of Wales, a person with a massive following and who is heralded as someone who has changed the face of the British Royal family. It is also hard when that person has children about to ascend to the throne of the United Kingdom, become the leaders of the commonwealth and probably become some of the most powerful people in the world. Not people you’d like to tick off.
Diana premiered in London on the 5th September 2013 and was released to the UK public on the 20th September of the same year to much controversy and poor reviews. Even the way the film was marketed, by placing posters of the movie near the entrance of the tunnel in France where she was killed, could either be seen as tactless or shrewd. But when not even the royal family are invited to the premier of the film it makes one wonder what was the real intention behind the film.
Diana is a biographical story of Diana, the Princess of Wales’ last two years before her death in the August of 1997. The screenplay is based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book Diana: Her Last Love and it focuses on her divorce from Prince Charles, her relationship with the heart and lung surgeon Hasnat Khan as well as Dodi Fayed.
Producers could have dodged much controversy and criticism by simply implying that this was a story about Diana as opposed to directly trying to make a biography out of a romantic drama screenplay. However if you relax into Watts playing such an iconic figure of Diana you can start to appreciate her interpretation of the icon. The performance of Naomi Watts is actually pretty good, her interpretation of the princess seems to be natural and subtle. But although she makes a good Diana both in styling and in acting, the screenplay and direction implies that the real Princess Di was an ambitious, scheming and somewhat pushy young women.
There have been masses of mixed reviews; some saying you should give the film a chance, saying that it is actually sweet and clean, but, for the most part, royalists are staying way clear of this interpretation of their favourite princess. The royal family themselves seem to be pretty mum on the subject but the heart and lung doctor Hasnat Khan has been very vocal about the depiction of his relationship with Princess Diana in the film. During an interview in the Mail on Sunday he is quoted as saying that he will never watch it and in reply to a suggestion by the film’s producers he had given the film his “tacit acceptance” he said: “It is a complete lie. I have never given any approval.” He also added that the film’s story came from “Diana’s friends talking about a relationship that they didn’t know much about, and some of my relatives who didn’t know much about it either. It is all based on hypotheses and gossip.”
At the end of the day, when you put this film on the shelf next to The King’s Speech (2010) or The Queen (2006), just to name two, this film comes across as a weak, sensationalized and flimsy depiction of the Princess of Wales.