Rated R, 111 minutes
The superbly acted, leisurely paced "Spencer" is a psychological chard yet study and fictional look at a weekend in the life of the fascinating but troubled Princess Diana. Kristen Stewart headlines the film in a fearless, award-worthy turn as Diana. From director Pablo Larrain, who examined First Lady Jackie Kennedy in similar fashion in "Jackie," it's hardly revelatory and is redundant following Netflix's "The Crown," but it's highlighted by Stewart's career-changing performance, who captures Diana beautifully.
The marriage of Princess Diana ("Twilight's Stewart) and Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen's Sandringham Estate. There's eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different.
"Spencer" is directed by Larrain and written by "Eastern Promises" screenwriter Steven Knight, takes a look at what Diana might have done on a holiday weekend filled with tradition and ceremony, something we know Diana often really did loathe. The film takes a deeper, psychological dive into Diana's mental capabilities and how the Royal Family contributed to her instability. Stewart sublimely nails the part of the Princess, showing quite a range from the popcorn teen flicks of "Twilight" she's distanced herself from In recent years.
Stewart is ably supported by a strong cast that includes Timothy Spall (from the "Harry Potter" films) as an assistant who goes toe to toe with Diana to keep her line, along with Scottish character actress Stella Gonet in a small part as Queen Elizabeth II. The most memorable of the supporting characters, many of them staff who assisted Diana, is Oscar-nominee Sally Hawkins as the quiet, sensitive Maggie, one of Diana's dressers, and they share one of film’s best exchanges late in the film with a surprising confession from Maggie.
"Spencer" isn't your typical biopic, and is also slower moving for most filmgoers’ tastes, and only adding (along with "The Crown") the public's obsession with Diana and the Royal Family. The chief reason to see is the superb turn from Stewart, who will surprise many with her nuanced, moving turn as the genuinely complex Diana (along with first-rate, impeccable hair, make-up and clothes). Don't be surprised if you see more of Stewart come awards season.