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‘Spencer’ Is Kristen Stewart’s Most Emotionally Stunning Performance to Date

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This article contains  spoilers for “Spencer.”

On Friday, Nov. 5, a new film about Princess Diana was released entitled “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart as the royal princess. Before the film begins, it is deemed as “a fable from a true tragedy” in a note on the screen, making it clear to viewers that it is not attempting to showcase a section of Princess Diana’s true life story, immediately separating itself from other movies about Diana. 

This is different from most flicks about the iconic princess, which are mostly non-fiction. This particular fiction explores Christmas and what may have gone on within the mysterious royal walls at the Queen’s Sandringham estate. It delves deep into three days of Diana’s life and psyche after her relationship with Charles is already on the rocks. 

Rather than an intangible story based on fact alone, this film uncovers Diana’s raw, emotional truth, allowing her to become real. It depicts her as a mother, friend and wife. This movie also delves into the Princess’s relationship with food and her eating disorder, which brings an element of humanity and relatability to her character that has been picked apart over and over by the media. 

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One of the most special elements of this movie was how the music was directly related to Diana’s emotional inner turmoil. This showcased how much control Diana had in repressing her true emotions, feeling contained and constricted in the royal family. Each time the music would swell while she got worked up, it stops as she decides to once again conform to what is expected of her, like she does when she drops the black pool ball onto the table, rather than throwing it at her husband’s head. This choice for the music also foreshadows Diana’s escape with her children at the end of the film; the happy ending awarded to Diana also sets this film apart from many others regarding the tragic ending to her life. 

Diana was famous for her iconic clothing and fashion sense, and “Spencer” truly delivered in the costume department. With 15 gorgeous outfits in this film, each holds a deeper meaning, from her father’s tattered and thrashed red jacket to the 1988 Chanel Haute Couture dress meant for Christmas dinner. Diana’s decision to rebel against the outfits set out for her is because it is one of the only aspects of her life where she can maintain her independence. Through her clothes, she can make statements and have an opinion that she cannot otherwise as a highly-monitored and scrutinized figure.

One of the fictional elements of this film is a queer encounter with the princess’s favorite royal dresser, Maggie, whom Diana considers the only person she can have a real conversation with. Toward the end of the film Maggie confesses her love to Diana, which makes the princess laugh. Significantly, it is the first time in the film we see, hear, and feel happiness radiating from her as she is reminded that she is loved. This movie was not trying to make any assertions about Diana’s sexuality, but Stewart herself commented, “I totally ship Maggie and Diana.” The actress is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and on Nov. 2, she announced her engagement to girlfriend and screenwriter, Dylan Meyer. 

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Kristen Stewart is a phenomenal actress, despite what many think about her performances. Her acting is nuanced and subtle, perfectly embodying a person rather than a role. She does this as the iconic princess in “Spencer” where most of the acting is done within. As an audience member, you can feel the princess’s pain through her mannerisms, facial expressions, and restrained voice. 

Her performance in this film was truly one of shapeshifting. Stewart disappeared into the accent, the look, the person — so much so that she was no longer herself. Princess Diana’s own personal protection officer who witnessed a couple of Christmases with Diana told People magazine “out of all the people who have played Diana over the past 10 years, [Stewart] is the closest to her.” He even mentioned how visiting the royal estate was like “purgatory” to her and that she spent most of her stays hiding out with the chef or other members of the staff.

The praise that Kristen Stewart is receiving for this film has been a long time coming, and it is more than deserved. Her talent has gone unrecognized by the masses for far too long, and this movie appears to be her moment. In the past couple of weeks, there has been nonstop Oscar buzz regarding this movie and Stewart’s role. Some say she is a shoe-in for best actress, and the film with all of its beauty could certainly be nominated for other awards, considering the artistic cinematography and outstanding direction. 

Lillian Dunn is an Entertainment Contributing Writer for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at lbdunn@uci.edu.