Spencer

Spencer ★★★★½

It's currency, that's all we are.

This holiday season, Pablo Larraín cordially invites you to Norfolk England, 1991, Sandringham Estate to celebrate Christmas with the royal family. In attendance will be The Princess of Wales, Diana, Spencer, wearer of ill-fitting dresses and alternately forlorn and manic expressions. As her husband puts it, there must be two of her, of all of them, the interior and the exterior. But the truth is the woman's psyche is split asunder, not merely cleft in two. She is not experiencing a conflict, but an entire crisis of self.

As with Larraín's terrific biopic, Jackie, Spencer is a deep trip into its lead character's mind, so much so that it tilts fully into psychological drama. In the elegant halls and rooms of the estate, Diana's holiday is deteriorating into an anxious nightmare of judging glances and frequent trips to the lavatory to purge the meticulously planned menu from her twisted gut. It is, without exaggeration, the most viscerally upsetting cinematic experience I've had since Hereditary, and one which more than one group of patrons walked out of. That isn't remotely to imply the film is sadistic or lacking warmth, but even those with a strong tolerance for emotional intensity may find some of the film's horrors a lot to bear.

For me, I don't have enough praise to go around. Perhaps the obvious is easiest, Stewart goes fucking supernova, and DP Claire Mathon is there to capture it perfectly with the best cinematography of this nascent decade (and thus, in my opinion, since the last two films she herself shot. She's a beast.) Most delightfully surprising to me is the script, which is loaded with thoughtful and evocative dialogue and the precise sort of vicious wordplay that gives many of the exchanges an icy edge. All told it's a triumph, both technical and emotional, but perhaps best served to those with strong stomachs.

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