Kristen Stewart shines as The People's Princess in Spencer

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By Ben Carpenter, Film & TV Editor

To represent Diana as anything less than an angel amongst British culture is, to many, a sin akin to treason. Ironically, Diana herself embodied such sentiment. In donning the feathered shag and delicate accent, Kristen Stewart marks her territory as Hollywood's underrated gem and steps out of the (twi)light and into Diana’s darkest Christmas at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate.

Courtesy of IMDB

Much like Larrain’s Jackie (2016), Spencer highlights said director’s bravery in analysing cultural royalty from an apolitical stance. Labelled ‘The People’s Princess’ for a reason, Diana has long been seen, or at least framed, as a hero of sorts. The same can be said of Jackie Kennedy, albeit with less sweetness. However Spencer is quick to shatter the illusion of perfection, instead vouching for a chaotic representation that poses the terrifyingly unbritish question: was she just as bad as the rest of the royals?

From the opening frame, Larrain’s Diana is nothing short of a mess, and rightfully so. Speeding to the Estate and turning royal heads, Stewart achieves every actor's dream - you simply forget you’re watching Stewart. A supposed impossibility ten years ago when Stewart was somewhat omnipresent at the height of Twilight fever, every single nuance, every movement pulls you further and further away from Bella Swan. As the Christmas celebrations commence and Diana’s sophistication unravels, Stewart presents Diana with both grace and pettiness, highlighting the flawed woman behind the tabloids and cementing her place as an Oscar hopeful.

Courtesy of IMDB

And what better way to compliment such an elaborate cultural icon than with an equally elaborate wardrobe. From vintage Chanel to beaded ball gowns Jacqueline Durran, designer of that green dress in Atonement (2007), does more than mimic the princesses' famous fits. Mirroring the film’s overall dedication to resonance over reality, Durran instead pulls outfits inspired by a range of Diana looks. From varsity jackets to sailor hats, Stewart pulls each and every look off seamlessly, with a little Diana head tilt of course.

But whilst Stewart’s Diana may look perfect, she is far from it. Existing in a world of her own, Larrain makes it clear from the first act that whilst Diana may be struggling immensely under royal watch, her rock bottom is still much higher than ours.

This sense is epitomised in a brief scene in which Diana poses for the cameras, black veil and Chanel suit, starkly contrasting the leather clad mud stained herd of photographers screaming her name. While Diana may be battling her own inner demons, with a literal army at her disposal and Wellington boots on demand, she still sits head and shoulders above us. People’s Princess? Sure. One of the people? Not quite.

Courtesy of IMDB

Reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006), Larrain takes full creative control of Diana’s narrative. Interjecting fantasy amidst the misery and a cameo from Ann Boleyn herself, the film relishes in its manipulation of reality.

Larrain begs the audience to question what they see as fact, to reinterpret the perfectly imperfect Diana. For decades she struggled to control her story. And it’s about time we, as a culture, question the narratives we are spoon fed and so willingly swallow.

Do we ever really know what goes on behind closed doors? And is it fair to assume that a fancier door hides fancier secrets? With Spencer, Pablo Larrain aims higher than a shotgun on boxing day; and boy does he hit his target.

Featured Image: IMDB


Do you feel Stewart does Diana justice?

AUTHOR

Ben Carpenter

Film & Television Editor