Saturday, August 10, 2013

6 Random Thoughts I Had While Watching the New U.K. Trailer for "Diana"

1. Since Diana, which will be released in the U.K. on September 20, focuses on the final two years of Diana's life, can it be seen as a sort of prequel to 2006's The Queen, which focused on the aftermath of Diana's 1997 death and how it affected her former mother-in-law?

2. I'm still not sure how I feel about the casting of Naomi Watts in the role of Princess Diana. At 44, she's eight years older than Diana was at the time of her death. Although Watts clearly doesn't look her age, and she can nail vulnerability, I wonder how she'll fare with the other key aspect of Diana's image. Despite her complicated love life, there was always a certain innocence about Diana. The trailer scene at 1:24 in which the reel Diana draws a heart on the mirror seems like something the real Diana would have done, but Watts looks slightly unhinged making the childlike gesture, like she's a little crazy in love, which, come to think of it, might actually be the point.

3. The year of Princess Di's death, Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for romancing Naveen Andrews in The English Patient. Will the twice-nominated Naomi Watts get lucky, too? Oscar loves actors portraying English royalty (in recent years, Helen Mirren and Colin Firth have won theirs for playing, respectively, Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen and King George VI in The King's Speech), but what about royalty through marriage? It's scored nominations in the supporting category for Helena Bonham Carter and Mirren (in The King's Speech and The Madness of King George, respectively), and Diana is far more iconic than Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother or Queen Charlotte. This might end up being Watts' best Oscar shot yet.

4. But will critics, and in turn, the Academy, fall for her as the late Princess of Wales? Judging from the evidence of the trailer (below), Watts' performance appears to be strangely muted, which might be why I find the earlier wordless trailer (watch it here) more effective. I suppose that grand understatement was Diana's public personal style, but it's not necessarily Oscar bait. Naveen Andrews gets to do most of the heavy emoting, and Juliet Stevenson is her usual charming, witty self, much as she was opposite 2004 Best Actress nominee Annette Bening in Being Julia. Hopefully, the film will offer more moments like the one at 1:47 in which Diana's famous poise starts to fall apart. The only thing Oscar loves as much an actor playing a royal (or pretty much any real person, living or dead) is a good crying fit.

5. The massive phone that Diana is using at 1:09 makes me feel so old. Touches like that one and Diana's comment to Hasnat Khan that most people don't have four mobile phones and all of those dramatic shots of newspaper headlines render the film something of a period piece. (I, for one, have four mobile phones, though only one that I regularly use.) The popularity of Princess Diana was largely responsible for launching the modern tabloid era, but she died in 1997, a few years before everyone had their own personal computer and a full decade before the rise of Facebook, Twitter and social media. I wonder how coverage of her life would be different now. I'm pretty sure we can't look to Kate Middleton for a glimpse of how the modern media might have responded to Diana, as the Duchess of Cambridge lacks the glamorous mystique that Diana exuded, which was largely responsible for our obsession with her.

6. I wonder how coverage of her death would be different now. The day Di died, my friend Dave commented that the perfect headline would be "Princess Dead." Clever, yes, but probably too tacky for the New York Times and even People magazine (my employer at the time, which ran a simple photo of Diana with no text on the cover), but in today's online world, bloggers, many of whom are unfettered by such concerns as decorum, would no doubt have a field day coming up with insensitive word play. It will be interesting to see how they and the rest of the modern world respond to Di now and to the movie.

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