Spencer

Spencer ★★★½

There’s something about Steven Knight’s screenplays that I always find so jarring, and his writing is my least favourite part of Spencer. The intent of being subtle while being overly direct and obvious thematically is a common thread throughout the film. The film seems to find it difficult to show Diana as a victim without being explicit and self-explanatory, particularly in the first half. The screenplay is particularly disappointing because there are so many great aspects of Spencer. Jonny Greenwood’s score is fantastic, capturing the mood of the characters even in the films more off-kilter moments. The cinematography is great, even when some of the visual cues were too obvious. The overbearing score and colour work is woven into the film to create a deeply uneasy atmosphere. Of course Kristen Stewart is good as Diana, the physicality she brought to her performance took it to another level, and she had the perfect amount of chemistry or lack there of with her family. 

While the on the nose writing was alienating for me it does help display clearly the disparity between the royals and everyone else. The first 15 minutes have a number of establishing shots which create both an elitist and an unnerving atmosphere around the area. Throughout the film Larraín captures Diana’s discomfort and emotions in a way that I found more effective than in Jackie, as a character study I think this film is much stronger even if the story is more fabricated and fictional. The way Diana interacted towards William and Harry was the most believable aspect of the story for me. While the pheasant stuff felt superfluous and eventually contradictory, the dance sequence felt superficial and the eating disorder themes felt half baked, Diana’s relationship with her sons felt entirely believable and it was the most emotionally compelling aspect of the narrative. The film is a compelling and understandable exploration of a character wanting to have a regular relationship with her children. The ending works well enough, the simplicity is effective, however the presumable product placement (I don’t believe the KFC stuff is historically accurate) was laughable.

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