The Stream: How many more Princess Diana depictions do we need, really!
The Big Screen: A stellar Kristen Stewart performance.
The Final Bill: A very strange biopic that plays almost like a psychological thriller.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Pablo Larraín
Writers: Steven Knight
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Nielen
Rating: R for some language
Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes
Production Companies: Komplizen Film, Fabula, Shoebox Films, FilmNation Entertainment
Platform: In Theaters November 5, 2021
Trailers: Benedetta, The 355, A Journal for Jordan, Nightmare Alley, King Richard, Belfast, Flee, The Worst Person in the World
It seems like the life and times of Princess Diana are on the top of the mind for the entertainment industry. The most recent season of “The Crown” depicted Princess Diana joining the House of Windsor and all of the turmoil surrounding. There is also a Broadway musical called Diana. Guess what that’s about. Now, Princess Diana gets the big screen treatment in Spencer, but it’s not one of those cradle-to-grave biopics but something more specific. I took in this rather inscrutable drama at a theater near me, and here’s how it went.
Pablo Larrain’s Spencer sets the tone with the following title card: “a fable of a true tragedy.” Essentially, as much as this is a depiction of Princess Diana on a fateful Christmas holiday in the 1991, it is very clearly a fictionalized account of this time. In the beginning, Diana arrives late and alone to the Queen’s Sandringham Estate after the rest of the family has already settled in. It seems Diana’s goal is just to get through one last weekend with the House of Windsor before her separation and ultimate divorce from the Prince of Wales. Spencer depicts the mental and physical struggles that Diana goes through enduring this holiday isolated and dictated to by a family that doesn’t want her.
Kristen Stewart gives a remarkable performance as this version of Diana. Her look is an approximation of what we’ve seen of Diana – the wig, the makeup and the clothes. Stewart has mannerisms, a voice and accent that suggest the princess, but don’t amount to mimicry. Stewart does her best to embody, as well as convey, the difficulty that must have been plaguing Diana at this time. She is the reason to see Spencer as no other actors really register in the film. It is a one woman show, and it’s a good show at that.
If there is another star, it has to be Pablo Larrain’s direction. Now, I can’t entirely get on board with the whole show, but Larrain definitely was going for something different. For the most part, he achieved it. Who would have considered this biopic to be almost a horror film or a psychological thriller? It was really shocking at points when things you think you saw are maybe not exactly what they seem to be. I don’t want to get too spoiler-y because it is good to be caught off guard. Some may not appreciate the flights of fancy that pop up throughout, but I thought it makes what is otherwise a well-trodden subject interesting again.
Side Note: the score by Jonny Greenwood is so fascinating and discordant that it gets distracting at times.
Spencer is another in an ever-growing line of Princess Diana depictions. Pablo Larrain takes some strange chances telling this story and attempts to get inside the head of the troubled princess with varying degrees of success. Kristen Stewart’s performance is stellar and is worth a viewing. Grab a bowl of popcorn for a matinee of Spencer.