Spencer ★★

This opens with “a fable from a true tragedy”and ends with a carpool karaoke ride to KFC, and it’s pretty constantly at war with itself over whether to be a hushed portrait of upper-crust alienation or a goopy story of a mother rediscovering her strength. The sentiment wins out, which is just as well since the “contemplative” parts don’t give much in the way of insight. It assumes you have a familiarity, if not obsession, with the royal family. And this means presenting certain information in the most obtuse way possible, as if it views exposition as inherently bad. Never mind that the dialogue is blatantly unsubtle, with bold pronouncements and animal metaphors abound. It’s at first interesting to consider Diana’s wrestling with her private and public images, and Kristen Stewart conveys this uncertainty well through her movements and expressions. But so much of the drama feels like mini-plays meant to pad out awards season reels, and her performance starts to feel exactly like that. And it really gets into trouble when it tries to play up the shock value, using self-mutilation and eating disorders like lurid infusions. Plenty pretty and with a great score, but a whole lot that doesn’t work.

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