Thursday, November 4, 2021

Spencer Review: Kristen Stewart's Royally Good Performance Make This Emotional Royal Affair

Release date: November 5, 2021
Running time: 118 minutes
Directed By: Pablo LarraĆ­n
Written By: Steven Knight
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins Timothy Spall, Sean Harris Jack Farthing

The marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There's eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different. SPENCER is an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.

First and foremost, Spencer is not a documentary or a docu-drama.  It is an imagining of what might have happened during three fateful days over the holidays during a royal gathering.  It has some overly dramatic moments, and some exaggerated events, but what it does so well is depict just how stifling that life can be for someone like Diana.  Even if the words or events aren't true to life, the overall feeling in that house is masterfully created in this film.  From eyes always on you, to constant checks on your wellness, to a general lack of agency, this film shows what it could be like if you are living under the scrutiny of the royal family. 

And it does this with some amazing acting, wonderful music, and meticulous cinematography.  The film is a showcase for Kristen Stewart, who has to carry the movie a lot.  The isolation of Diana is a double edged sword, meaning Kristen Stewart is often the driving force behind these scenes.  Her fear, her uncertainty, her paranoia, and her lack of agency are all depicted by her brilliant performance.  The rest of the cast are also good, really no one has a bad performance here, but the film is driven by the powerful performance of Stewart.  

But what struck me the most in this film is the wonderful use of music.  The film masterfully uses the soundtrack to accentuate the mood and feelings in the film.  When the world is stifling, the music is as well.  When Diana feeling overwhelmed, the music becomes chaotic and overwhelming.  It uses energetic Jazz to highlight this chaos, helping to accentuate her moods.  And when something proper is supposed to happen, the film uses more traditional music to highlight the royal family and mood.  The film here uses melancholy classical music to show the royal mentality but also the melancholy of Diana's life.  These instances seem to be the most distressing to her and it comes through in the somber, but grandiose tone those scenes have.  And occasionally, the music will not be there, allowing you to really focus on what Diana says and the quiet isolation that she has.

And the cinematography also does a great job of showing Diana's lack of agency.  The film uses wonderful shots of the estate to both show the grandiose world she lives in, but also the walls that constantly confine her.  There are a few scenes where she is truly free, and in those instances the film shows the beauty of her newfound freedom.  And it also shows in the choreographed shots.  You see the structure and meticulous nature of the staff, which is impressive but also highlights just how little choice Diana has.  It is a brilliant use here, using the privilege that she lives in as a weight against her.  And overall, this movie gives a peak into an idyllic lifestyle and how that could come off as negative to someone like her.

Spencer is a brilliant film that is made by it's masterful use of music, Stewart's emotional performance, and the way it highlights the grandiose and overwhelming nature of a royal life.

Watch it.

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Spencer is in theaters on November 5, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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