Spencer ★★★★★


“A fable from a true tragedy.”

Alright, second time’s the charm, right? Actually, that’s not fair. I liked Jackie, but I didn’t love Jackie. I started rewatching it while preparing for Spencer, hoping that I could give it a one hundred and get myself even more hyped for this film, but as I watched the first five minutes I was reminded of why it’s not great. Let’s unpack. First thing’s first, it’s important to note that a lot of Jackie is in fact very good, or at the very least it’s extremely well made. The story of how Jackie Kennedy coped with the assassination of her husband is worth telling. It’s shot and directed very lovingly, and Natalie Portman’s performance in the titular role is one of her best. (Only one of her best! That’s how good she is!) But even with all of that, I’ve always felt a disconnect with that film, and I really think it comes down to the screenplay, or at the very least it doesn’t help. At the end of the day, it didn’t really feel like a feature film, but a recreation of real events done to a T. The point of view character is a reporter, for Christ’s sake. It’s not a feature film, it’s a documentary but with professionally trained actors. There’s no distance between the real story and the audience. That was 2016. Pablo Larrain had five years to craft another biopic about an insanely beloved and famous woman from the twentieth century. How did that work out for him?

In case it wasn’t immediately obvious, I loved the shit out of Spencer. It’s not an exaggeration to say it quickly climbed the ranks of my list of favorite movies, and I wasn’t even expecting that much. I watched this and The French Dispatch with about an hour in between one another (look out for that review being posted soon), and I was planning on doing a write up of Spencer immediately after viewing it, but I needed so much time to digest what I just saw on the silver screen. Spencer is, in my opinion, an example of the best type of biopic, one that strikes me as extremely similar to Amadeus, my all-time favorite biopic. As someone who deeply cares and knows a fair bit about the story of Princess Diana, I can tell you that there’s quite a bit this film gets wrong. Which, frankly, kind of makes this better than Jackie, at least for me. There is no distance between what Jackie projected onto the screen and what actually happened. With Spencer, there is so much more room to grow and spread out its branches to make a great film in and of itself. Diana Spencer is known for, among other things, being something of an outcast in terms of the Royal Family. She wasn’t The Main Character, so to speak, but she was a revolutionary in that she was the only member of the family at that time to actually be outwardly kind, and treat people with respect. In contrast to every scene where she’s seen struggling to be part of the traditions of the austere Royal Family, the scenes in which she’s projected as a beloved figure in the eyes of the commoners are shot and framed in a noticeably distinct way from the rest of the film. The majority of the film is made up with her chronic self-loathing, coming out in regurgitating her meals to stay the preferred bodyweight of the Royal Family, and a truly uncomfortable scene involving self-harm and bolt cutters. (On a slightly related note, the editing here is fantastic.) Like Amadeus, not all of it is rooted in reality, in fact, a lot of it simply consists of how the world at large viewed Diana Spencer when she was alive. It works, to say the very least. Spencer is the rare biopic that looks at the central character through all possible angles, fronted by Kristen Stewart in a truly breathtaking performance that rivals Portman’s Jackie Kennedy and then some, and for that reason it’s one of the rare occasions that a biopic actually provides the whole plate, even while being noticeably biased. Every single second of Spencer soared for me, and it only got better as the film went on. You don’t have to believe me in terms of this being one of the best movies of the best year for cinema that I can even remember, but when this film gets ten Oscar nominations next Spring, please don’t claim you were uninformed.

Fucked Up Shit Ville Score: 4/10

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