Kristen Stewart delivers a career-best and likely Oscar-winning performance in Spencer, a film closer to psychological nightmare than biopic.
There will be no Kristen Stewart bashing over here. Honestly, it’s tiring and exhausting for people to continue judging the likes of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson solely for their work in Twilight. Both actors have put out some quality performances in their post-Twilight filmography. Enough is enough with the complaints! Personal Shopper was the top mark in Stewart’s career until Spencer came along. Stewart manages to outdo that performance and it’s hard to imagine she’ll ever be able to top her work here. I mean, sure, she’s not the first person we’d think of to portray Diana, Princess of Wales. However, she delivers such a phenomenal performance that you honestly forget she’s an American.
We don’t know what truly happened during the holiday festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in 1991. What we do know is that Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) and Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) are falling apart. Neither of them are sleeping in the same room. At least this is the vibe that the film is delivering. You can clearly see it in everything that Diana does–so much that she ends up running off to visit her childhood home, which is now falling apart.
Whether Diana was truly unhappy as a royal as the film sort of implies is hard to determine but the film also shows her to have an eating disorder. The film goes as far to make many allusions to Anne Boleyn (Amy Manson), who is apparently related to the House of Spencer as I learned during the press screening. There’s another reference to Sir Winston Churchill, who also descends from the House of Spencer. Both women suffered similar fates in that their lives were far too short.
It’s not an understatement to say that Spencer is a psychological nightmare. As far as biopics go, screenwriter Steven Knight wisely focuses on a period of a few days in her life. Given the family’s discreteness, Knight has a lot of room to play with between fact and fiction. We don’t know what happened and what didn’t. Was her dresser in love with or or is it something made up for the film? Perhaps the best category for Spencer would be to call it a psychological drama.
There isn’t much, if any, focus on Diana’s activism. But again, the film focuses on the holidays at the end of the year. Maybe it’s because we all know the story but the film makes no mention of her tragic passing over Labor Day weekend in 1997. Much like with the Kennedy family, there’s always going to be the what ifs. What if Diana decided to become queen rather than choose her freedom? Take away the tragedy that ended her life and who knows what would have happened.
In terms of casting, Stewart is a year older than Princess Diana when the film takes place. But in terms of age differences, Jack Farthing looks too young to be Prince Charles at the time in which the film takes place. Charles is over a decade older than Diana was and there is a five year age difference between the Stewart and Farthing. This is the only thing that takes me out of the film.
Spencer is substantially different from that of Pablo Larraín’s 2016 biopic, Jackie. While the previous film didn’t quite get the love from the Academy, this film almost certainly will.
DIRECTOR: Pablo Larraín
SCREENWRITER: Steven Knight
CAST: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, Jack Farthing
Neon will release Spencer in theaters on November 5, 2021.
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