“The campy guilty pleasure suggested by the Diana trailer proves a marketing mirage thanks to Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s sensitive direction of an overly earnest drama,” writes Variety‘s Charles Gant. “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’ 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.
“While Hirschbiegel’s direction and a crack technical team class up the production, the same can’t always be said of Stephen Jeffreys’ script, which is belabored by clunky exposition and struggles to convincingly depict two real people actually in love. Watts’ at times deft impersonation of the doe-eyed beauty similarly never coheres into a full-fledged performance, or offers much insight into the enigma that lurks within.
“The decision to keep the rest of the royal family offscreen — only sons William (Laurence Belcher) and Harry (Harry Holland) are briefly glimpsed — may have intended to set the film apart from TV fare such as 1992’s Charles & Diana: A Palace Divided, or simply to keep the focus on the central relationship. But their conspicuous absence further undermines any sense of Diana as a rounded human being.”