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. Rating: B-
An enigmatic actress full of baggage plays one of the most enigmatic people of the 20th century who had a bit of acting to do herself. Diana’s stories are far too plentiful for one film - or even a series of them - so the film wisely keeps to only one chapter. It’s a slow meditation with lots of time spent on expansive and beautiful shots of an ugly situation. The big question for this film is the choice of the lead: How on earth did such as American actress like Stewart play someone dealing with the successors of the House of Stewart? Stewart shows the skills to pull it off with lots of breathlessness. Stewart spends the time being on the verge of cracking for the whole of the film and it's an impressive sight. Stewart's Diana stands out just like the way the colour of her outfits provides a pop of colour to the mostly drab setting. Performances from the support cast are minimal with dialogue between the royal family are few and far between. Music is classical and restrained with discordant jazz matching the discordant feelings going on in the rural estate The clash of tradition and the new is at a the fore here like a flower beating against an armoured tank. It's where the new of Diana tries to prepare to enter an institution of centuries of tradition. This Diana is shown to completely and utterly not belong. The family is forever waiting for her and is even have here kept within barb wire fences like a prisoner. She desperately wants to cut these wires. Parallels with Anne Boelyn are drawn - a woman who didn’t fair too well herself. The symbolism of Diana’s home reflects her past - something that is now gone for her, but she wants to desperately get back to it. There’s a distinct lack of love portrayed in the royal family. Even the staff are models of military precision and tradition with Spall taking up the role of rules enforcer. The family and staff spend most of their time criticising Diana or ordering her about. They are always distant - Diana is mostly shown alone and needs a fantasy to get out of it. The film is ultimately very sympathetic to Diana - the royal family aren’t much above the level of monsters.
If I were a royalty groupie, I might have enoyed this film. But I'm not. And I did not enoy this film at all. It's only saving grace is that it's technically well done.
Full Analysis at Spotamovie.com - **Intro** - With one Oscar Nominee and 33 Awards won, Spencer is a must-watch. It's the time when Lady D. changed her story and our one. - **The Story** - It’s December 1991, and the location is the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. The Royal family meets to celebrate the three days of Christmas, strictly according to tradition. However, the peace and perfection of the residence are in contrast with the tumultuous mind of Diana and the delusions of the family. Rumours about infidelity and divorce on her marriage increase, as well as her mental health troubles. What is going to happen? How is Diana going to deal with the Royals and her mind? And why is this one a fable? - **Watch the trailer** and find out with us at https://www.spotamovie.com/spencer-2021-movie-review/
Kristin Stewart could certainly not be accused of being half-hearted here. She immerses herself completely in this depiction of a rather unstable woman dealing with the pressures of her fame and her family. The extent of any authenticity as to the feelings and experiences by the real life Princess is anyone's guess, so though I did appreciate her effort, I felt the rest of the film took a rather uncompromising view on other people who are either dead, or unable to retaliate against this somewhat one-sided portrayal of a scenario that all concerned have subsequently admitted was way more nuanced and complex than presented in this overly-simplistic depiction. It doesn't help that the opening scenes purport to be Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham estate in Norfolk, but look nothing remotely like that distinctive building - and from there on in, the story speculates wildly on real life events in a fashion that I just found irritating, implausible - hysterical, even. Her ability to randomly roam the countryside (with or without her children) without any security beggars belief somewhat, and the somewhat curious references to "currency" alluding to the double edged swords of a privileged no pain no gain existence is all just too contrived. This portrayal of an emotionally struggling lady is to be commended, but it has little to do with reality and as a man who lived in the UK throughout the rise and fall of this flawed individual, much of this comes across as little more than a clumsy attempt to capitalise on a tragic story with scant regard to anyone else who actually had to endure at that time - or, indeed, to fact.