Pablo Larraín directs Kristen Stewart, Sean Harris and Timothy Spall in this arty character study of Princess Diana, exploring her difficult last Christmas within the Royal family before she separates from Charles.
Finally we get the movie and role that matches Stewart’s talent and big screen thrall. She and whispering Sean Harris give Oscar worthy turns here. In fact everything technical about Spencer is impeccable; from Jonny Greenwood‘s demented genre-hopping score, Jacqueline Durran’s onslaught of costumes and Claire Mathon’s grainy, Kodak snap style cinematography. The influences are all over the shop but The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby and Lynch feel the most acute. This is gothic horror. A woman trapped in herself, haunted by an old version of herself… a past decision caging her from being her true self. A repressive family hounding her every thought, sexual urge and moment of individuality. Gothic horror with dance montages. We start with her lost in the landscape she grew up in and slowly she breaks free by rattling through the regime and musty forgotten wings and protocol. The ending is orgasmic – like an Eighties teen college movie with the rest of the cast looking either inspired or shaking their fist in the air as Diana gains her agency and escapes to a bit of soft rock. There’s something truly unabashed by the Ford Mondeo “find yourself” commercial shamelessness of finishing something so measured and artful on an extended moment of pop. Not every directorial decision lands quite so well but this is a movie taking big daring swings between biopic, ghost story, Shakespearean tragedy and kitsch fashion show. You gotta admire that moxy. As for it being Stewart’s towering achievement… mission accomplished. I don’t care about the Windsors one little jot and I fully engaged with Spencer. Though one can also approach it as an unofficial Twilight epilogue; the young wife realising her marriage into a family of closeted, cold, cult members has stunted her true self… which then sees she her breaking free from their vampiric customs to re-embrace the life she gave up before immortality. Just saying.
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We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/