Film Review – Spencer (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Did you hear about the drama at the Oscars? Yes, I know. Kristen Stewart dared to wear shorts! I swear the only stories not about the thing were about her shorts. To be fair, they were short shorts but I still fail to see why it was such big news. Oscars fashion is always kind of questionable and compared to many people Stewart looked normal. I think she looked phenomenal. What I didn’t know is whether her nomination was worth it. Was she as good as everyone says or did she just happen to be playing a beloved figure?

What happened to the Princess of Wales was certainly tragic and I don’t wish to suggest that I don’t care. She did a lot of great things and helped a lot of people. That’s a given. Do I think we need to keep dredging over the whole thing? No. I’m not entirely sure what the film was hoping to achieve or what new perspective it hoped to offer. I also think there’s a tendency for actors to turn into a caricature when they play Diana. Her affectations just become a bit over-the-top. Yet, Stewart’s been praised by everyone.

And I have to admit, Spencer was a better film than I’d expected. Especially after the opening disclaimer of “a fable from a true tragedy”. You can imagine how big an eye roll there was when I read that. Yes, there was a lot of artistic licence on display but, surprisingly, it worked. It gave the film a new dimension. Not a subtle one obviously. You don’t need to be a film student to see all of the imagery being used here. From the opening shot of a dead pheasant almost being squished by car tyres to the final scene, this is a kind of dense but very artistic film.

I also have to admit that Kristen Stewart is pretty fantastic in the role. Yes, there were times when the gestures seemed a bit cartoonish but this was a strong performance. Just like Natalie Portman in Pablo Larraín’s, Stewart brings such depth and emotion to this public figure. However, it’s probably a shame that this came out so close to The Crown season 4 when Emma Corrin did amazing work at playing Diana. There is less subtlety in Stewart’s performance and is a lot less natural.

Also unlike The Crown, this film doesn’t worry about painting the Royal Family in a negative light. Where the Netflix show wanted to sympathise with both Diana and her in-laws, this film is proudly on the side of the People’s Princess. Possibly too much. Yes, she was unhappily married and in a very difficult position as a public figure. It’s just that it’s all kind of relative. Now more than ever, it’s hard to watch a film make us feel immensely sorry for someone living the life of luxury in her palaces wearing designer dresses and pearls. No matter how shitty her husband treated her and how much the press hounded her. The film takes its job very seriously and it often feels like that weakens it.

There were so many aspects of Diana’s character or life that this film could have focused on. Instead, we’re treated to a weird gothic Christmas where she’s haunted by Ann Boleyn. If we did need a film dissecting the later years of her marriage, I’m not sure this was the best one. It feels as though art won out here. Not necessarily a bad thing but, when you’re dealing with a real-life figure, it seems disappointing.

5 thoughts on “Film Review – Spencer (2021)

  1. Oops! Sorry about that. I thought I was on a different blog. It’s too early for me to be thinking coherently.

    Anyway, I suspect Diana has entered into the cultural mythos and as such we’re going to keep on seeing movies and whatnot about her :-/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, it’s as if everyone has decided that enough time has passed and it’s okay to completely mythologies her story. It wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t already know what happened.

      Liked by 2 people

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