The late lamented Princess Diana is once again centre stage in Spencer. Featuring Kristen Stewart in the title role, it’s set at Christmas in the 1990s. She spends a traumatic weekend with the Royal family at Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate.
It’s a speculative piece by the great Pablo Larrain, allowing him to re-visit the terrain he explored so well in Jackie, another film about a sensitive woman (Jacqueline Kennedy) in high society. Jackie loved a man who died. Diana doesn’t love one who’s living. It’s a different kind of crisis.
Spencer catches her at a time when her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) has crumbled. She’s stuck with the arid formality of the Royals as she tries to make sense of a kind of schizoid life. “There has to be two of you,” Charles tells her.
“Will they kill me, do you think?” she enquires despairingly. In the time of Henry the Eighth they probably would have. In a post-Henry era, instead of being sent to the Tower for her sins, the world listened to her plight and took her to its heart. The rest is history – or herstory.
Kristen doesn’t really look like Princess Di but then neither did Naomi Watts who played her in Diana in 2013. Both are also too short. But with the right expressions, tilt of the head etc. you can get over these things. Neither does Jack Farthing look like Charles. The best likeness is Stella Gonet as Queen Elizabeth.
The film will no doubt re-kindle speculation about Diana’s trials and tribulations. There have been a number of documentaries on her already this year, the 25th anniversary of her death. Coming on the heels of The Crown and the cringe-inducing Diana: The Musical, one wonders if there’s anything left to say about the woman who died in 1997 after her car crashed into a pillar in Paris. Maybe we should let her rest in peace.
Nine Perfect Strangers, a mini-series now streaming on Amazon Prime, explores different kinds of traumas. It has Nicole Kidman as the owner of a luxurious Wellness Centre where people suffering from all sorts of problems (fraud, addiction, bereavement) arrive to get themselves sorted out.
They aren’t long there before they realise Ms Kidman’s definition of ‘wellness’ doesn’t exactly jibe with theirs. Is the cure worse than the disease? You betcha. It’s high time someone did a satire on these extortionately-priced spas which often do little more than separate gullible people from their money.
A more authentic form of healing takes place in the delightful Swedish film A Man Called Ove (Alibris). It’s about a cranky character who’s suicidal over the death of his wife. He’s soft underneath but we don’t learn that until later. That makes it more effective.
The manner in which he comes to terms with his situation is handled with both humour and depth. This is a pro-life film with a big heart.