The marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There's eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different. SPENCER is an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.
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Spencer Theatrical Review
The British Royal Family probably has some of the most recognizable faces in the world. From a young age, they are groomed and prepared to live life in a fishbowl, constantly being watched and scrutinized. However untrue and unrelenting criticism might be, British royals are taught to be as pleasant as possible and to keep their emotions in check.
Unlike those who are born into royalty, those who marry into it – no matter how noble their bloodline may be – often fumble and fall apart from all the fame and attention (negative or positive). If you are Diana Frances Spencer (Kristen Stewart; Adventureland), that unending inquiry into her life and her family was ultimately too much for her to bear.
Ten years after her elaborate wedding to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing; The Riot Club), The Princess of Wales was so worn down that she was depressed, possibly suicidal, and most certainly bulimic. Her husband was having an affair, the media wouldn’t leave her alone and all over the world, people from all walks of life were fascinated by and in awe of the “People’s Princess”. She was celebrated, analyzed, watched, and heralded but, in private, she was miserable. The final straw for her was in December 1991 when she had to spend three days celebrating Christmas with the Royal Family.
Writer Steven Knight (Pretty Dirty Things) and Director Pablo Larraín (Jackie) take a very small chunk of a decade and somehow manage to squeeze into it many of the demons that pushed the princess to her limits with self-harm and loathing. While I’m sure they had an interesting idea behind letting every moment simmer, the scenes ran too long and made the pacing of the film excruciatingly slow. The opening minutes were unnecessary and set an unpleasant tone that lasted throughout most of the almost two-hour run time.
My next sentence is something I never thought I would write but…Thank goodness for Kristen Stewart. I’ll be honest, when I first heard who was cast to portray Diana, I couldn’t imagine what Larraín was thinking. However, Stewart does an incredible job of playing this sweet, innocent, intelligent, broken woman. While she does lack some of the innate warmth The Princess exuded, she gets so much more right than wrong. Had another actress gotten the role, Spencer would have been a completely different film. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) as Diana’s dresser and confidant, Maggie, is terrific and commands attention every time she is onscreen. Timothy Spall (The Harry Potter series) plays Major Alistar Gregory, Diana’s nemesis and warden.
Established at the beginning of the film, the story is a fable, but it is doubtful that the script strayed all that far from the truth. Sadly, that same script is rather pedestrian. Larraín’s visuals, on the other hand, are colorful and offer quite a bit of depth. In one particular dinner scene, for example, Diana breaks her necklace and chokes on the pearls. That scene, among others, gives the film much of its depth and symbolism.
Starting off slow and not picking up the pace much, Diana is a slow burn that stays with the viewer long after they leave the theater. The authenticity of the costumes and the events that play out in the movie, is intriguing and the more one thinks about Spencer, the better it seems.
This is one film that needs to be analyzed and dissected to see it for what it really is… a masterful attempt to let commoners take a peek behind the curtain.
-- Allison Rose
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