[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope: Spencer

Princess Diana's very unhappy Christmas

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

November 27, 2021 – Picking over the bones of British Royalty, particularly when it comes to tragic figures like Anne Boleyn (1501-1536) and Princess Diana Frances Spencer (1961-1997) has resulted in a disproportionately large quantity of award-winning movies, and, in truth, the quantity exceeds the quality.

“Spencer” is the latest in a series of Oscar-bait movies based on tragic royals. The odds are pretty good for Hollywood or BAFTA awards since this kind of royal anglophile film usually does very well in awards voting. Kristen Stewart (of the “Twilight” movies) plays Princess Diana in this movie, which explicitly and repeatedly compares Diana Spencer with Anne Boleyn.

This movie depicts Diana as an emotional wreck most of the time during her three day stay during Christmas at Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham House in 1991. During the stay, she is obsessed with Anne Boleyn, an English Queen unjustly condemned to death. This foreshadows Diana's own death in a car accident six years later.

Diana is haunted both by memories of happier days in nearby Park House, where she grew up, and by her husband's affair (Prince Charles, played by Jack Farthing in the movie) with Camilla Parker Bowles (played by Emma Darwall-Smith). Diana has visions of Anne Boleyn, and frequently induces vomiting due to her eating disorder, bulimia nervosa.

Diana is also unhappy about the meticulous scripting of everything from exact meal times, to the specific clothing that she must wear for each occasion. In one scene, she is told she must immediately begin preparing for the next meal, which is still three hours hence. She doesn't like the fact that her sons, William and Harry (played by Jack Nielen and Freddie Spry, respectively) are being taught to hunt birds on the estate over the Christmas holidays.

Like everything else, her time with her children is heavily regulated. Diana feels isolated, and needs someone she can talk to. Her main confident is her dresser, Maggie (played by Sallie Hawkins of the “Paddington” movies). She also confides with the head chef at Sandringham House (Sean Harris of “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation”). Both of them listen to her and impart wisdom.

If this all seems overly dramatic, it is. The truth is that the events that took place at Sandringham House in 1991 are far less dramatic than those depicted here. This film is more fiction than fact. People and events are made up in order to exaggerate Diana's turbulent mental state.

One of those made up characters is Equerry Major Alistair Gregory (Timothy Spall of “Mr. Turner”) who looks on disapprovingly at Diana's small rebellions, and insists that she conform to proscribed behaviors. He works for the Queen, so he has a lot of authority. Major Gregory is one of the best characters in the movie.

One of the things that impressed me most about this movie is the enormous amount of money, effort and waste expended on behalf the British Royals. It is simply ludicrous. This enormous waste, based on a lot of supernatural nonsense, makes it difficult to work up much sympathy for any of the Royals, including Diana.

Among the actors playing real people, the only one who looks a lot like the person they are depicting is Emma Darwall-Smith, who plays Camilla Parker Bowles. Kristin Stewart, Timothy Spall and Sallie Hawkins all turn in fine performances in this well-acted film. The sets and costumes also have the quality one expects in this type of film. Jacqueline Durran's costume designs for this movie are among the awards season favorites. As far as art direction goes, it is going to be hard to beat “The French Dispatch” in that regard.

If you want to watch this film to find out how the royals live, you'd be better off watching a documentary. If you want to see it because you are a fan of Princess Diana, then you are in luck. This film paints a very sympathetic portrait of her. It is not all that accurate, but it does make her out to be a good person who is a victim of an unfair system. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2021 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]