Spencer - Movie Review

Is there anything new in this Princess Diana Story?
Spencer an intimate psychological biopic
Spencer an intimate psychological biopic(Neon)
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 2:04 PM EST
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Kristen Stewart takes on the iconic role of Diana, Princess of Wales in Pablo Larrain’s dreamy, abstract, yet emotionally involving fictional film of a three-day holiday in the early 1990′s. Diana, who rebelliously drives herself, without security detail, is already in hot water when she arrives to the royal family gathering late. On the way to the country Christmas castle, she gets lost, which is surprising, because the castle is in an area of England where she grew up. Patrons at a roadside dinner are understandably taken aback to see her walk in and ask for directions.

What little sense of freedom Diana experienced, unescorted driving through the countryside with the top down in her sports car, quickly disappears when she enters the cold edifice and even colder family circle. From a silly tradition of having to weigh in upon arrival – a tradition, challenging holiday guests with gaining weight over the holiday to prove they enjoyed themselves-to every outfit, sometimes three changes a day, perfectly pressed and labeled to dictate exactly what she wears and when: she is not in charge of her life or decisions.

She has an ally in her favorite dresser, Maggie, played by Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins and her two children William (Jack Neilen) and Harry (Freddy Spry) who provide immense comfort and are most likely the sole reason she is attending. Maggie disappears, supposedly sent away because she lets Diana leave her curtains open while dressing, giving opportunity to paparazzi with telephoto lenses. When Maggie reappears later in the film, we aren’t sure if she has really come back, or it if is Diana’s imagination, her new “unreality.” What is real, and what is imagined becomes less important as the story movies forward. It is about Diana’s internal struggle, her grip on reality and ability to face life with an eating disorder, crumbling marriage and her inability to pretend she feels fine, when she is not.

How much you enjoy Spencer may depend on how much you know about, care about or remember Diana’s story. The filmmakers are wise to focus on a very short period in her life, and basically fictionalize it to serve the emotional core of the story. Many other stories have chosen to include most of, or all her life. However, someone who doesn’t know Diana’s story well may be lost or worse disinterested. It’s hard to believe that she passed 27 years ago, and there is a whole generation of people who only know the tragic fairy tale in foggy nostalgia.

Although the story telling isn’t always linear and is stylized, Larrain manages to keep involvement and interest, until late in the film when what seems like an arbitrary fashion-identity montage, which goes on too long and momentarily depletes tension.

Still nothing gets in the way of Stewart’s intelligent, empathetic performance. From her impeccable accent to her innate vulnerability with a touch of instability, she embodies Diana like no other actress has. It is not an imitation or impression, but rather a person of real flesh, blood, and neuroses. Stewart has been fighting for respect and the recognition she deserves as a talented actor and not just a celebrity who was first recognized in a blockbuster vampire franchise; now, with the rumors of an Oscar Nomination, she will fight no longer.

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