Diana: The Musical
By Jennifer Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Musical tells familiar story; language, sexual innuendo.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film doesn't break new ground in its take on the Charles-Diana saga. While there's some criticism of the monarchy implicit in the tale, the members of the British royal family are portrayed as dedicated to their roles as symbols of national unity.
Positive Role Models
Diana is portrayed as the young victim in a loveless marriage and also a clever manipulator of her public image. She and Charles try to make their marriage work, especially after their sons are born; they both are portrayed as very much loving their kids. Charles is shown to be dedicated to his role as future king and also jealous of Diana's ease in the public light and popularity among the people. The Queen is also portrayed as bound by duty and honor, a stoic and sensible woman.
Some diversity in secondary characters. Diana visits an AIDS ward and the royals want her to wear a mask and not touch the patients. This is at a time when some of the patients who were gay weren't open about their sexuality, and her visit -- and her touching them -- was significant. She's portrayed as contributing to a lot of worthy causes that helped others, particularly the suffering or disadvantaged.
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Violence & Scariness
Diana sings of depression, bulimia, suicide attempts, and media assaults. A newspaper article cites five suicide attempts. She has a bandage on her wrist in one scene. She's said to suffer from postpartum depression after her sons are born. The accident that killed her is sung about.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Adults have affairs and are unfaithful to their spouses; they kiss and are seen in bed together. There's talk of "philandering," "wanking," Diana being a "virgin" at marriage, men being "cheaters" and "taking other friends." A scene with Diana's lover James Hewitt has multiple double entendres involving "riding lessons" resulting in a woman who will "dismount satisfied."
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One use of "f--k" at the end of a song with variations on the word, like "eff you" and "feck you." "S--t," "bitch," "damn," "goddamn," "hell," "screw you," "God," "Christ," "bloody," "sod off," "stupid," "tart."
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Products & Purchases
Charles references his "hundreds" of cufflinks and gifts Diana expensive jewelry. Diana wears couture dresses, but then auctions many off after her divorce and gives the proceeds to charities.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink alcohol at parties and events. Diana is given medication.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Diana: The Musical is the filmed version of a Broadway play that addresses many mature themes of the princess's difficult married life and tragic death. Diana and Charles both have affairs and talk openly about these. Couples are shown in bed together and kissing. There's talk of "philandering," "wanking," Diana being a "virgin" at marriage, men being "cheaters" and "taking other friends." A scene with Diana's lover James Hewitt has multiple double entendres involving "riding lessons" resulting in a woman who will "dismount satisfied." Diana also sings about her mental health struggles, from postpartum depression to bulimia and multiple suicide attempts. She's given medication. Her constant hounding by paparazzi is shown, ultimately leading to her untimely death in a car accident. But before that, Diana is portrayed as generous, loving, and kind to all she meets. Adults drink alcohol at parties and events. Language includes one use of "f--k" at the end of a song with variations on the word, like "eff you" and "feck you." There's also "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "goddamn," "hell," "screw you," "God," "Christ," "bloody," "sod off," "stupid," and "tart."
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Diana: The Musical
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What's the Story?
DIANA THE MUSICAL tells the story of the 19-year-old woman (Jeanna de Waal) who marries a prince only to find herself in a unique but painful position personally and publicly. Her marriage has a third person in it -- her husband, Prince Charles' (Roe Hartrampf) mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles (Erin Davie). Diana, too, eventually takes a lover in James Hewitt (Gareth Keegan), and the marriage falls further apart. Meanwhile, despite suffering from depression and eating disorders, Diana becomes the "princess of the people," able to connect with everyday citizens in a way the rest of the royal family can't, nor cares to. This enrages her husband, and the pair continue to spar until the Queen (Judy Kaye) finally grants them a divorce, setting Diana free.
Is It Any Good?
The royals continue to have a moment, and Netflix's streaming of this Broadway musical about Lady Di adds to the zeitgeist without breaking new territory. In Diana: The Musical, the star is portrayed as a pawn -- sweet, naïve, well-intentioned, and ultimately underestimated. It's not a new vision, fawning as it is, but setting it to song and dance is novel. However, this recording shows how difficult it is to offer a fresh or deeper take on such a familiar subject, especially while rhyming and hitting marks.
The power of a live performance is hard to capture on film, and theater settings look static in a movie no matter how cleverly they're staged, so the entertainment value of this film relies on fascination for the subject as well as the performances on display (film can offer close-ups you won't get from an auditorium seat), which are fine but not groundbreaking. The quick pacing from number to number helps avoid too many lulls in the two hours. But two humorous numbers -- the introduction of sexy James Hewitt and Diana's butler's recommendation that she don an "eff you" dress to spite her husband -- are the definite highlights of the affair, suggesting that this work would've benefited overall from more self aware and, well, more entertaining pieces like these.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what the format (a Broadway musical) of Diana: The Musical adds to the body of films and series about the royal family. How does setting the drama to music change the telling of a now-familiar story?
What aspects of the mise-en-scène caught your attention -- props, lighting, set pieces, costume changes, and so on?
What responsibility do filmmakers and theater directors have to the subjects of nonfiction tales like this one? Diana stars here as both victim and selfless hero. Do you think this is a realistic portrayal of her and those around her? Why or why not?
Diana is said to suffer from postpartum depression. What do you know about this condition? Where could you go for more information?
- On DVD or streaming: October 1, 2021
- Cast: Jeanna de Waal, Roe Hartrampf, Erin Davie
- Director: Christopher Ashley
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Strong language, suggestive and thematic material
- Last updated: April 5, 2023
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