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OZ CINEMA
Your guide to Australian film.
By Joshua Smith

Diana Deified

Author: Adam Rudegeair
Published on: June 2, 1998

Diana and Me (1997), is a comedic variation of the 'stranger in a strange land' formula, in which a woman who shares the same name as the Princess of Wales (Toni Collette), takes her fiance to London to meet Princess, whom she idolises, after winning a competition from a tabloid magazine. Predicably, they find themselves in a number of humorous situations because of their laconic Aussie reactions to the culture and customs of England. In this respect, the film's humour is similar to Crocodile Dundee (1987).

From the opening scene, Australian society is painted as having two distinct classes. The lower, unsophisticated class, to which Diana belongs, and those who follow and presume to imitate, the culture and lifestyle of the Royalty and Celebrities shown in tabloids. This upper class is portrayed in the women who run those magazines. They wear expensive (and ludicrous) designer clothes and speak in posh accents. In the film, Diana's home in Wollongong much resembles P. J. Hogan's urban vision of life from Muriel's Wedding (1994). Collette's performance does not really differ from her Muriel role until she leaves the country soon after the beginning of the film.

As a revealing look at Australian culture juxtaposed with conservative British culture, there are some valuable insights. There are, of course, the obligatory references to Australian popular culture, such as Neighbours, and Cricket. One amusing scene depicts an upright English lady watching the cricket with Diana's fiance. She compliments the batsman on his good form while the fiance emphatically explains to her how 'Boonie' is the greatest cricketer ever. The real insight into Australian culture lies in the way the Australians interpret the formal British society in relation to their own world of lower-class urban outskirts. After hurrying her fiance along while they dress for a formal function at which Diana will meet her idol, Diana arrives at the luncheon in purple vinyl shoes and an almost fluorescent blue coat. The inappropriatness of their handling of the situations generates the humour.

As the Princess' greatest fan, Diana is diametrically juxtaposed to her, representing the total opposite side of life. She comes from a small outback Australian town where there is little exciting work, and her fiance's greatest ambition is to work for his Dad. The Princess' royalty and affluent lifestyle are obviously an aspiration, and that is why she is the focus of such an obsession.

The film's subtext is riddled with references to Australia's supposed unsophisticated social sensibilities. While wearing a lace shirt similar to the one a photographer will wear to Elton John's birthday party later in the film, Diana's fiance proclaims: "I look like a fuckwit!". Ironically and rather appropriately, he does look like Prince. The same man wants to go surfing with his time, rather than explore London.

The film is prophetic in its cynical approach to Paparazzi, and it deals quite explicitly with the notion that they are animals. Rob, the photographer, must prove to Diana that he does have a moral centre before she eventually decides she loves him. This foreshadowed the general public opinion of paparazzi after the Princess' tragic death. The relevance would have been all the more apparent, and the film would have appeared much more hostile, if it had been released at the time of the death.

In conclusion, Diana and Me, is an exploration of the media machine, and our culture's fixation with the lives of celebrities, often at the expense of a life of our own. But what distinguishes it from other films that use the 'stranger in a strange land' formula is its inherent Australiana. The perspective is very different from what would have been produced in an American version of the same story.

 
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