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Festivale online magazine, December 1997
Movie Reviews

Diana and Me

The Princess and the Papparazzi

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Diana and Me is a film that almost didn't make it. A whimsical tale about a Wollongong girl's obsession with the Princess of Wales, it was shot not long before that fateful Paris car journey and left its creators with a dilemma - to release or not to release? In the end they came up with an elegant solution: film two extra scenes in London to top-and-tail the film, acknowledging the Princess' death and setting its story in the past. The melancholy scenes outside Kensington Palace work surprising well, contrasting solemnly with the lightness of the main plot.

It's a pity the rest of the film is not so elegant. Wollongong's Diana Spencer, who wins a trip to London to meet her namesake, is played capably enough by Muriel's Wedding 's Toni Collette, but the characters and atmosphere around her fall a bit flat. In a series of mishaps, she ditches her Aussie boyfriend Mark (Malcolm Kennard) and links up with British paparazzo Rob Naylor (Dominic West) to pursue the Princess. It's a situation ready-made for the larger-than-life character treatment of Muriel's Wedding or Priscilla, but the actors and dialogue never stretch that far. We're left with outlandish situations played without the verve or pace that would sustain them.

As a result, the characters are hard to believe. Mark and Diana are just a bit too gosh-wow as the naïve Aussie first-timers in London, and the British correspondent for Woman's Day is a cringeworthy stereotype who seems to have stepped out of a Carry On movie. Most of the characters are minor variations of stock Aussie or British types and it gets slightly embarrassing at times.

The film is also undermined by an feeling of sloppiness in the script and its execution. A joke about Prince Andrew's sexuality should have been made about Prince Edward. Bangkok Airport is stocked with Telstra Goldphones. Naylor's crucial theft of a party invitation is accomplished in an unbelievable way. Worst of all, Bob Geldof's name is misspelled in the closing credits. All small points which detract from the final product.

Diana and Me's greatest strength, however, is its look at the tactics of the paparazzi. It does this uncompromisingly, displaying the photographers' fierce rivalry and amoral invasions of privacy with clear-cut scenes which tell their own story. There's a bestial frenzy in the jostling and pursuit of their victims which Diana comes to realise is wrong. Her romance with Rob, and his gradual journey towards her point of view, is convincing without being preachy. Both sides of the debate are recognised, as Diana has to accept her part in buying the magazines that pay the paparazzi in the first place. It's a strong theme and incredibly timely, considering the circumstances of the Princess' death.

It's an enjoyable film but not a classic. Save it up for a video viewing on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Tim Richards
December 1997
see also: Ali's review

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Featured essay, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales
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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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