“Spencer” wants to be an intimate portrait of an increasingly desperate Diana shortly before she leaves Prince Charles. But neither director Pablo Larraín manages to show a new facet of the unhappy princess, nor is Kristen Stewart able to convince as Diana.
The story is well known and has been told many times. Currently in the highly acclaimed Netflix series “The Crown”: that of Lady Diana, née Spencer, who is in despair about her marriage to Prince Charles – because he loves someone else and because she cannot get along with the very strict royal family. So now the Chilean director Pablo Larraín tells this story again in his film “Spencer”.
As early as 2016 in Venice, Larraín showed a very intimate portrait of a woman who is at the center of world interest with “Jackie”: Natalie Portman played Jackie Kennedy in a rather great way immediately after her husband was murdered.
In 2019 the director – back in his home country Chile – presented “Ema y Gaston”, the study of a toxic relationship between a dancer and a choreographer. Both times great, big cinema.
No new facets of Diana
“Spencer”, however, is not equally convincing. There are many reasons for this. The first thing you have to ask yourself is: why another Diana story? Especially since she says nothing new: her love for her father, her aversion to the strict court protocol, her bulimia, her (well-founded) jealousy, her change of mood. We have been told so many times – and this film simply lacks a relevance that goes beyond Diana’s suffering.
The film takes place during the Christmas holidays at the royal country estate Sandringham – there it is to be celebrated as «normal» and solemn as possible in the family circle, although everything is already in a bad way between Charles and Diana.
This is followed by three days consisting of refusal, desperation, binge eating, and vomiting. The few intimate and convincing moments are those in which Diana is alone with her children, or those in which she speaks to people from the court – this is what she, contrary to the royal family, is still fond of.
The interesting stories remain untold
Actress Kristen Stewart tries to be an exact copy of the princess. Unfortunately, one notices this abundantly: it is never a suffering Diana that one sees and feels, but always Kristen Stewart, who imitates a suffering Diana. That doesn’t work, this Diana gets annoying at some point.
There are quite interesting supporting characters, played by great actors and actresses, who deserve more space and dialogues. For example, the maid Maggie (Sally Hawkins), who is very fond of the princess. Or the former major and now security chief Gregory (Timothy Spall), who insists strictly on the court ceremony and still tries to integrate and understand Diana.
And the cook Darren (Sean Harrys), with whom Diana likes to seek refuge. Unfortunately, these figures have to remain stereotypes – as does the argument between Diana and Charles (Jack Farthing), which remains just as shadowy.
Pablo Larraín focuses solely on Diana. Rather: He focuses on Kristen Stewart as Diana, who does not do justice to the role. Unfortunately, the result is a film that is as boring as it is irrelevant. Hopefully just a slip of the otherwise great director.