Starring Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins , Jack Nielen, Freddy Spry, Jack Farthing , Sean Harris, Stella Gomet, Richard Sommel
Pablo Larraín’s latest film “Spencer” is a wild departure from the expected historical biopics or the kind of presentation seen on “The Crown”. Familiarizing yourself with Larraín’s particular style is recommended, meaning you should see his masterpiece “Jackie” before watching “Spencer”. It’s the audacity in Larraín’s script that makes “Spencer” surprisingly fun to watch. In an early scene, Kristen Stewart’s representation of Diana Princess of Wales is crunching down hard on pearls gifted from her husband, another clue this isn’t what many might expect. Larrin’s flirtations with elements from horror movies (i.e. cinematography, shadows, score and editing), in these types of re-creative period pieces, make them all the more evocative and unusual.
We join Diana (Stewart) in her speedy little Porsche, as she intentionally causes further delay in joining the Royal Family for traditional Christmas activities in the country. She’s lost, stopping at a roadside diner for directions to audible gasps from the patrons inside. Finally, she spots something familiar, a raggedy scarecrow wearing her father’s jacket. She hastily takes to the field in her expensive clothes and heels to retrieve the jacket. The last to arrive, she takes a deep breath before entering the mansion. What follows is a manic few days of Diana trying to avoid every tradition the family insists she attend and participate in. She’s like a caged animal who would rather chew off her own flesh than be confined in a room with sewn curtains, only her children provide fleeting moments of calm.
It’s the audacity in Larraín’s script that makes “Spencer” surprisingly fun to watch.
The opening credits of “Spencer” make it clear this is fable, this is fiction. Larraín is interested more in the inner dialogue of the famous figure, following an enchanting Stewart for two hours, mostly in extreme close up. He is aware of the former “Twilight” stars beauty, and us too after this film. Her accomplishment here might surprise those who haven’t followed her eclectic career choices since worldwide fame over the vampire series. Stewart much like Diana was accosted and hounded relentlessly by the media for years. “A magnet for madness,” Diana refers to herself at one point, a phrase that could easily be applied to Stewart. While Stewart doesn’t quite manage the rapturous and satisfying performance Natalie Portman accomplished in Larraín’s previous, it’s certainly the high point in her career.
The costumes, makeup, art direction cinematography, editing and score are specific, artfully chosen, and up for grabs when the nominations are announced. The supporting cast of characters most just exist on screen to provide Stewart combativeness, rarely do any of them get moments away from the title character. As Larraín’s directs with irony and assumption he also balances the chaotic behavior or Diana with the calmness of her children or the two people on the staff she trusts and overly confides in. They continually reassure her, things are not as bad as they appear. “Spencer” is for the open minded and those seeking an alternative to fact or historically based period dramas.
Larraín’s vision anchored by Stewarts beauty and manic performance entertain and fascinate.