Title – Spencer (2021)
Director – Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
Cast – Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, Jack Farthing
Plot – During Christmas holidays at the royal family’s Norfolk estate, Princess Diana (Stewart) battles her personal demons, public pressures and a break down of her marriage with Prince Charles (Farthing).
“I’m a magnet for madness. Other people’s madness”
Review by Eddie on 28/02/2022
If you’re seeking a stereotypical Princess Diana biography you better look elsewhere, as Pablo Larrain’s intimate and confined examination of Diana’s fateful Christmas holidays with the royal family that resulted in her realization that her marriage to Prince Charles and her life in the most famous family in the world was beyond salvaging is a very unique take on a very specific moment in Diana’s life, one that plays more like a slow-build horror rather than a paint by numbers bio.
Played with a chameleon like performance from the arguably never better Kristen Stewart, who morphs into the role of the famed Princess as well as any other actress ever has, Spencer sticks closely by Diana as she roams the lonely hallways and grounds of the royal’s Norfolk estate trying to be a wife, a mum, true to herself and the public persona that the world wanted her too be whenever she was in the spotlight.
Built around Johnny Greenwood’s atmospheric and foreboding score, Steven Knight’s unforgiving script and the intense lens of Larrain’s cinematographer Claire Mathon, Spencer is the type of film that will divide those that are hooked by its style or put off by its cold and untypical delivery, even if the film’s heart and soul is laid raw and bare whenever it takes pause to share in Diana’s integral character building moments such as her special Xmas celebration’s with her two boys William and Harry or her frank conversations with her unloving husband or royal staff members such as Timothy Spall’s Major Alistar Gregory.
In this far from rosy view of the way in which Prince Charles and his family treated Diana, Stewart is at all times alluring and heartbreaking in one of her most impressive career turns yet.
While not the first name that springs to mind when you consider who could’ve been Larrain’s leading lady here, even the biggest of doubters must surely be impressed by Stewart’s take on one of the most tragic figures of modern history and she is the main reason to sit through this at times cold, other times heartbreaking and strangely forgettable drama that only has scattering’s of brilliance as it heads towards a transfixing climax that appears to be from a more impactful film that is less about impending dread and human horrors and more about finding oneself in the midst of your darkest hour.
Final Say –
A unique and sometimes transfixing dramatic exploration of a key period in Princess Diana’s life, Spencer is beautifully constructed and memorably played out by its leading lady but it’s not as engaging as it may’ve been, marking itself as a fine effort to do something new with the Diana story, not an outstanding one.
3 drive-thru feasts out of 5
You hit all the important elements of what a viewer can expect from this movie. I am biased because I loved Kristen Stewart the first time I saw her in the HBO’s 2004 adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak, so my adoring Spencer may not say as much as the same praise coming from someone who is indifferent to the actress. Nevertheless, I enjoyed her performance in this film and liked it as a film much more than 2019’s Seberg. My favorite scene was in the refigerated food pantry. All that animal protein and cakes… I know what it was referencing and yet it made me hungry (and not as a coping mechanism).
I am a little surprised there is not more talk of her at the Oscars. To me in a fairly weakish field she should be more of a frontrunner.
Biopics are the Academy’s favorites, but perhaps there’s been a glut of Diana portrayals in the last few years that they wanted to be more vocally enamored with other performances?
I’m not a huge fan of Stewart, but I think her performance in the movie was great. However, the movie itself is (like you said) not really engaging and becomes sluggish and awkwardly pacing throughout.
I could see what they were going for with it but yeh for me it really didn’t engage the way you would’ve hoped, even if the last 15 – 20 minutes was fairly strong.
If the film were better overall I think Stewart would be a frontrunner in Best Actress race.