During her Christmas holidays with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, Diana decides to leave her marriage to Prince Charles.
I knew absolutely nothing about this movie beforehand. I heard/read extraordinarily positive reactions that definitely elevated my expectations. And my actual knowledge about Princess Diana and her life was and still is extremely basic. Spencer is one of those rare examples where going into it completely blind didn't work in my favor at all. I found myself trying to look for something to grab on to, and despite some genuinely outstanding technical attributes, Steven Knight's (Locked Down) screenplay doesn't offer me enough to hold my attention.
Spencer is undoubtedly a fictional character piece that only stands on its feet due to one of the year's most mesmerizing lead performances. Kristen Stewart (Underwater), an actress who still gets a lot of unfair hate despite her clear evolution to one of the most underrated actors working today, delivers a career-defining portrayal of Princess Diana that viewers will hardly forget about. I can't recall the last time I witnessed an actor completely disappearing into their role. A true masterclass worthy of every single award. The rest of the cast is also superb.
Technically, I also have little to complain about. Pablo Larraín's (Jackie) distinct direction adequately fits the frustrating, claustrophobic story, and I love how Claire Mathon's (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) moves between the intimate close-ups and gorgeous wide shots. As expected, costume and production design look fabulous, but Jonny Greenwood's (You Were Never Really Here) score didn't work for me. The mix of jazz with high-tension sequences becomes too uncanny, distracting the viewers from the narrative, which leads me to my main issue.
For someone with my knowledge and expectations, Spencer becomes one of those "nothing happens" films that usually surprises viewers with its unique storytelling approach. I'm all-in for this type of work, but outside of Stewart's display, I struggled to feel captivated by whatever was going on. A supposedly consistently interesting character study transformed into an overlong, repetitive one-woman show, where I couldn't figure out what it was aiming for. I understand the purpose of making the audience feel how Diana felt during her marriage and living within British Royalty, but Larraín's execution somehow fails to leave me emotionally satisfied.
A second viewing will probably improve and strengthen my opinion about the movie. For now, I feel very mixed about Spencer, but I'll leave this as a positive review trusting that I'll gradually enjoy it more after each viewing.
FilmNation Entertainment, Komplizen Film, Shoebox Films, Fabula, Topic Studios by Pablo Larraín, Steven Knight.
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins.
Genres: Biography, Drama
Keywords: holiday royal family biography marriage crisis princess psychological abuse based on true story norfolk christmas 1990s british royal family british monarchy body horror
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