- Gareth Crook
Spencer (2021) - 3/10
So the first question with most biopics is, does the actor mimic the real life character they’re portraying well enough. Kirsten Stewart is Princess Diana. Introduced to us getting lost in a vintage Porsche. Two of them actually, there’s a continuity error and she inexplicably swaps mid sequence. Anyway Stewart. She’s… okay. It’s a bit amusing, only a bit. Somewhat surreal, with a dramatic and solemn tone. Helped by a rather cool dissident jazz score, that sadly too often gives way for more typical strings. We’re headed to Sandringham for Christmas, with Diana destined to tell Charles (Jack Farthing) she’s had enough. Diana is on edge. Her manner clipped, guarded, honest. She’s predictably the fly in the royal ointment. Tired of tradition, intent on rebelling. Trapped and coming apart at the seams. It all looks very grand of course. Shot in Germany though, I guess Queenie wouldn’t like a film crew prowling round her house looking for plug sockets and tripping over corgi’s. Stewart feels like a characature. I’m afraid most of the cast do. There are exceptions. Both Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall are good. Even if Spall reminds me of Lloyd from The Shining. They bridge the divide between the dry royals above and the pretty pointless depiction of the staff below. Even with all the symbolic torture she’s enduring, it feels pretty bland, with some scenes being quite unwatchable. I know the whole point is to lay it on thick with the pomp and stuffiness, but it wears thin fast. The sound and score, that I’m not surprised are courtesy of Jonny Greenwood are the best things here, without them it would fall even flatter than it does. Even so, there’s a compelling story. Whether this is historically accurate is immaterial, the broad strokes are enough and it can be forgiven for playing the straight tragedy. It’s a shame it doesn’t go all in on the madness angle, the brief instances of imagining she’s Anne Boleyn, imagining other people, stomping around the estate, quiet stares from a cast who’s limbs move like they’re stuck in wet concrete and scenes outdoors in the nighttime fog. It’s like someone’s mixed in some pages from Stephen King. It’s not enough to save it though. There’s just not enough substance to hold it together. I’m no royalist. Maybe I’m destined to dislike this. Although it does essentially paint the entire monarchy as inbred halfwit pillocks, you’d think I’d enjoy this. But no, it’s terrible. Oh and she swaps Porches’ back again at the end.