TIFF 2021 Review: ‘Spencer’ Is Memorable But Not Meaningful

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, TIFF 2021, What's Streaming? by - September 15, 2021
TIFF 2021 Review: ‘Spencer’ Is Memorable But Not Meaningful

Spencer is an experience. The film, starring Kristen Steward as Princess Diana, imagines the last Christmas Diana spent with The Windsors before the demise of her marriage to Prince Charles. Director Pablo Larrain’s latest foray into biopics of iconic women (he also directed 2016’s Jackie) is certainly atmospheric. It’s even watchable, but that doesn’t make it a good movie, per see.

Stella Gonet looks and acts unlike Britain’s head of state, it’s almost comical. Jack Farthing is both sexy and charismatic as Prince Charles, which is nonsensical since Charles has never been a heartthrob.

Stewart’s performance is both energetic and effortful. Stewart is obviously working very hard to capture Diana’s essence, but she neither sounds nor looks like Diana. Unlike The Crown‘s Emma Corrin, Stewart’s attempts to capture the princess’ famous vulnerability feels laboured, and therefore false.

As flawed as Spencer’s casting is, that’s not the film’s central problem. I got a kick out of the wackiness of scenes where Diana communes with Anne Boleyn. I also enjoyed the film’s offbeat extended dance sequence. Spencer’s quirky choices are completely memorable, but they aren’t exactly meaningful. At the end of the day, Spencer lacks a real message about who Diana was. It has nothing new to say about Diana’s suffering. The movie winks at the end of her marriage and explores her hellish experiences with bulimia, self-harm, and the paparazzi. Still, Larrain’s latest work failed to make me think or feel anything about Diana that I hadn’t thought before.

This post was written by
Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, Refinery29, Elle Canada, Flare, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-founder of The ProfessionElle Society. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about parenting, politics, and The Bachelor.
Comments are closed.