Spencer Review

Where Spencer will immediately cause controversy is in the audience and their perception of Princess Diana. Homewrecker or hero, the ambivalent many that sway from side to side on this perception may not even care. The gross explosion of interest in the Queen of Our Hearts has heralded a mass appeal to have a stake in the private lives of the few that find themselves on the front page. Spencer dives into that somewhat, the latest Pablo Larráin feature explores that thoroughly well with the Kristen Stewart-led feature seeing her take the eponymous reigns of such a fascinatingly divisive figure of modern British culture.

It is not the first time Larráin has hoped to understand a female figurehead of a large and public family. His work on Jackie has more in common with Spencer than just the woman he wishes to profile. Diana and Jackie Kennedy, former First Lady to John F. Kennedy, are two powerful, accomplished women with fraught and tender personal lives, picked apart by press and public alike. It is this understanding that guides Spencer into being not just visually stunning, but impressive in the attitude it takes towards its subject and those interacting with Diana. A fractured and emotive response to a dark and gloomy time of separation for Diana and Prince Charles (Jack Farthing).

For all the greatness found in the performances and their understanding of this strife and conflict, Spencer comes to life best of all when it is isolated with Diana. When Stewart is given the free range to do as much as she can with the role, and when Larráin is at his most visually daring. Those grainy close-ups of a concerned Timothy Spall and the regality of the cars that roll up towards the large and grandiose manor look beautiful but do a great job of not hiding the horrors that bubbled away around this family. Stewart is stunningly good at this work. Her voice warbles, on the verge of tears and hitting close to greatness. It is the great culmination of realising a lifestyle you have chosen is the wrong one. Spencer reflects on that with abruptness and fear dangles over every interaction.

“Once more into the breach,” Darren (Sean Harris) says. He is not talking of the stresses of cooking for Queen and country, though, but the stress of being around them. Spencer does not lift the lid on anything of that sort but does not need to. Its conflict inspires with it the foggy formalities of a strange and guarded family, one that lives in massive manors and great surroundings. It is played as a tense and thrilling place, rather than a luxury. Larráin makes that possible with audible cues, the clear annoyance of odd tradition and the jazz ensemble that carries it all away. A magnificent feature that sees Stewart perform at the height of her powers, Sally Hawkins offer integral support and Larráin create something truly fascinating. He dives deep into this feature, controversy be damned. A love that he could not care for is cast aside for a deeply entertaining and engaging portrayal of the doomed princess, trapped in a garish castle, filled with people she has nothing in common with.

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