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Monday, December 06, 2021

Spencer movie review: Kristen Stewart is devastating as People’s Princess

Spencer movie review: The Kristen Stewart-starrer on Princess Diana is very much a fairy tale, of a princess who didn’t want the glass slipper.

Written by Shalini Langer | New Delhi |
Updated: November 19, 2021 5:51:31 pm
kristen stewart spencerKristen Stewart plays Princess Diana in Spencer.(Photo: Neon)

Modern-day princesses rarely now have a fairy tale story. And we don’t even have just Diana to tell us that anymore, with a Japanese princess recently choosing to exit the world’s oldest surviving monarchy to head half-way around the world for marriage.

However, there is something about Diana that the world can’t get enough of. She blazed like a star at a time when there were few of them like her around, and exploded in spectacular fashion, all in public glare.

This is not what the latest exploration of the Princess of Wales (or PoW, as the film lingeringly puns) is about. It is about the demons that chased her to where she ended.

Shot poignantly and breathtakingly by director Lorrain (Jackie), it is bathed with sadness and a growing feeling of dread about a young woman on the edge. The three days it spans, from the eve of Christmas to Boxing Day in the Windsors’ Sandringham Castle, seem endless. From the kitchen and its elaborate menu, to the retinue of help, from the table labouring under the dishes to the endless corridors, from the days immaculately planned to the pre-decided dresses, the days drag on and on.

And that’s just us. The weight of it on a frail, bulimic Diana, with a decade of this behind her and a life likely to be perpetuated forever and forever as a face on a currency note, seems destined to crush her.

Her every move is watched, her every word repeated back to her. They suspect her of changing clothes with her curtains open, inviting the press, and these are sewn shut. Stewart is exact and vulnerable in a devastating performance, so much so that it is with shock that we greet her rare moments of real joy. Those are with her sons and her only true friend in the royal house, a dresser called Maggie, who is brought to life by Sally Hawkins in spite of the brevity of the role.

The Windsors themselves come off very poor. The People’s Princess has left them behind long back in the popularity stakes, and this film is not really concerned with their point of view. There is a suggestion that Charles especially feels as constrained in the household as the girl he wooed and despaired of, but the Queen remains the “sensible” head of a monarchy she needs to be.

In that respect, Spencer is clearly a one-sided view on power dynamics, the overwhelming influence of tradition, and Diana’s yearning for “freedom”. There are of course two sides to every story. In that respect, this is very much a fairy tale, of a princess who didn’t want the glass slipper.

Spencer movie director: Pablo Lorrain
Spencer movie cast: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris
Spencer movie rating: 3.5 stars

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