SPENCER gets 5.5/10 A royal pain

Directed by Pablo Larrain

Starring Kristen Stewart, Jack Farthing, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall


Princess Diana seems like a person who despite all the media scrutiny was still a highly private person. A film like this could delve deeper than any journalist or biography could. And it may seem respectable to hinge this whole movie around one Christmas weekend at the Spencer residence and portray it in a fictional way. But this bio-pic of an otherwise interesting woman has just ended up being a misery fest, sometimes well executed for an anxiety inducing experience, but one that becomes increasingly exhausting, especially by the film’s naff conclusion.

Diana (Kristen Stewart) arrives at the Spencer estate for the Christmas weekend, though is very evidently not keen on the whole proceedings. She feels shafted by the rest of the family, particularly her cold husband Charles (Jack Farthing). She seems to have a stronger relationship with the workers, namely her dresser Maggie (Sally Hawkins), who she maintains is the only dresser she’s to have.

We’re privy to Diana’s anxiety-ridden exposure to these proceedings, which often plays out like in a deranged horror film like Repulsion. The film develops a pretty intense degree of frustration and anxiety bordering on a thriller horror level. As great as Kristen Stewart is at wholly encompassing this real life character and transforming herself into the role, it seems so impressive and viscerally effective at first, yet there’s not a great dynamic to this emotional instability, and it all comes across ultimately as very monotonous.

And the supporting characters such as her husband seem to be so callous and uncaring of Diana’s feelings to the point of seeming not even like a human or even a movie character, and this even goes for the Queen as well, who seems to have no dialogue in the film. Even if you’re rather anti-royalty, this still comes across as hockey characterization, as if the film only has the one real character, and everyone surrounding her aren’t even real people (or even characters).

Because of this, Spencer hardly feels like it’s getting under the skin of a real life person who otherwise would have made for a more compelling multifaceted character. Once we reach the very nice, but excruciatingly simple message (love your kids!), this quasi-psychological horror-thriller film feels like all its doom and gloom wasn’t worth it.


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