'Squirmingly embarassing, luridly sensational and a creepy weepie' - Diana film starring Naomi Watts savaged by the critics

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The Independent Culture

Portraying the “People’s Princess” was never going to be an easy job. And Naomi Watts, star of Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana, recently remarked that she was planning to leave the country when the critical response comes out.

Hopefully the actor, who was in London for the world premiere last night, has already jumped on a plane and hasn’t seen some of the savage reviews that grace today’s newspapers.

Here is a selection of the most acid:

The Daily Mail, which awarded it One Star, summarised the film as a “Creepy weepie that will make you sleepy”. Christopher Tookey writes: “Diana the movie is not as tacky or sensationalist as one might fear...The trouble is that in being so careful and eager not to offend, the film is a more than a little tedious, with a lightweight, romantic storyline that fails to surprise, let alone sustain a movie that lasts nearly two hours.  It has the slightness of a Barbara Cartland novella, but the love affair is treated with ponderous solemnity, as though it were another Gone With The Wind. It’s slow and terribly, terribly dull.”

The Daily Telegraph, which awarded it Two Stars, decided the film was bookended by “a redundant piece of lurid sensationalism”, ie a portrayal of the night of Diana’s death. David Gritten writes: “Watts makes a decent fist of playing Diana – she wears the clothes well (especially the glamorous ones) and the hair looks first-rate. But though she replicates Diana’s body language attentively (notably in the re-creation of her famous grilling by Martin Bashir, there’s something missing: the Princess’s wounded, doe-eyed gaze…The major problem, predictably, comes with the dialogue, which involves characters telling each other things they already know. ‘I am a heart surgeon!’ declares heart surgeon Khan [Naveen Andrews]. Yes, we get it.”


The Australian

branded the script “squirmingly embarrassing” with Kate Muir deeming the film a “Sloane-in-peril melodrama” which even Watts doing her “level best” can’t stop from being “atrocious and intrusive”. She writes: “The film bumps up romance and trivia at the expense of some potentially serious comment about the Royal Family's control of her access to her sons, who hardly feature, and Diana's disturbed behaviour. Watts, who has a prosthetic nose job, plays a feisty character who seems a far cry from the Princess, except when she imitates her shy, demure upward eyelash batting in the Bashir interview, with the line: ‘There were three of us in this marriage.’ Enough said, then and now.”

Digital Spy largely blames Watts’s slight performance for the failure of this film to capture hearts and minds. Emma Dibdin writes: “When you think of messy, raw, emotionally available turns Watts is likely to be among the first names that come to mind, in anything from Mulholland Drive to 21 Grams to this year's The Impossible. Watching her here feels almost like an optical illusion, because you simply don't believe that this actress can be giving this performance – it's stilted, overly mannered and bereft of anything human. In trying (understandably) to portray Diana accurately and reverentially, Watts has neglected to portray a person. Not that the blame for this falls squarely on Watts; it's Jeffreys's script that fails to give her a soul. She states repeatedly her desire "to help people" and we see her famous walk through an Angolan minefield among other philanthropic trips, but none of it seems to matter as much as her desire to secure Hasnat's love, repeatedly and with increasing desperation.”

The Mirror, which also awarded One Star, surmised that Hirschbiegel’s efforts were “fabulously awful”, with David Edwards writing: "The Queen of Hearts has been recast as a sad-sack singleton that even Bridget Jones would cross the street to avoid. Charting the two years leading up to her death in 1997, the film’s a cheap and cheerless effort that looks like a Channel 5 mid-week matinee. Much like the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, this is a film nobody would bother going to see if it weren’t for the famous characters.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw (another One Star) said he hesitated to use the term “car crash cinema” when critiquing Diana. He writes: “The awful truth is that, 16 years after that terrible day in 1997, Diana 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.”

Naomi Watts as Princess Diana