“Spencer” is to Di for

Sydney Ziemniak, staff writer

“Spencer,” a new drama film from the perspective of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, debuted in American theaters on Nov. 5. Kristen Stewart stars alongside Jack Farthing as Prince Charles and takes place over a three-day event, near the end of their marriage in the early 1990s.

“Spencer” takes an unconventional approach to the typical biopic. Instead of covering Princess Diana’s entire life, the film covers only three days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. During a holiday that’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, “Spencer” delves into the deeply flawed environment of the British monarchy as well as Princess Diana’s personal struggles with an eating disorder and self-harm. The rural mansion in which the Christmas event is set represents a prison, a panopticon where “everyone hears everything.” Diana is unable to be by herself or have the freedom to do what she wants for even a few minutes. She is a prisoner, constantly bombarded by her family and their employees, so the small amount of free will Diana possesses is demonstrated in her bulimia and harming herself on purpose—it’s the only way she feels she can take control of her life.

Stewart made her infamous acting breakthrough 13 years ago as Bella Swan in the film adaptation of “Twilight,” but her acting skills have yet to improve since then. In “Spencer,” her signature stiff-bodied breathiness is now coupled with an awful attempt at a British accent, not to mention her complete lack of resemblance to Diana. She delivers every single line in the exact same sad, uncomfortable fashion, even in scenes that are meant to be happy, such as when Diana is alone with her children. The film is yet another example of Hollywood casting actors purely because they’re popular, rather than because of talent.

However, the supporting actors do a great job. Sally Hawkins plays Maggie, Diana’s dresser and the only person she feels safe around other than her two sons. Although Maggie is not based on a real person, she is an amazing addition to the story that makes for many sweet moments in an overall melancholy film. Another supporting actor, Timothy Spall, portrays Major Alistair Gregory, one of Queen Elizabeth II’s personal attendants who makes the audience’s blood boil with his antagonistic and heartless manner toward Diana.

It’s a difficult task to make a 2-hour movie that takes place over such a short amount of time, and while “Spencer” certainly dragged at some points and had a few unnecessary scenes of Diana walking around aimlessly in silence, it was overall executed successfully. Diana’s frustrations in the royal estate became repetitive and left a small and disproportionate amount of runtime for character development. However, it was still an interesting spin on the archetypal biopic, advertised as a “fable from a true story:” the film isn’t meant to be completely accurate to Princess Diana; instead, it takes a specific, expository angle on the royal family and mental health.

The film’s cinematography has already amassed wide praise, and for good reason. The cinematography, done by Claire Mathon, is not only beautiful on its own, but is ridden with symbolism for Diana’s hardships as well—especially the comparison of Diana to Anne Boleyn, one of King Henry VIII’s wives who was beheaded because he projected his own affair onto her. Diana’s husband, Prince Charles, infamously cheated on Diana several different times.

“Spencer” is a film that undeniably has its flaws, but nonetheless is a powerful and concentrated view into the life of Princess Diana that leaves audiences hoping for a “happily-ever-after” ending despite knowing her fate later on.