What Went Wrong With… Spencer (2021)?

Princess Diana with a pheasant, a KFC bucket, and a Mike And The Mechanics CD

With a poster plastered with mostly five stars, Spencer has to be one of the most overrated films this year. It opens with a kind of disclaimer which tells the viewer that what follows is “a fable from a true tragedy” (translates as made-up nonsense) but what pray tell, is the moral to be learnt here? To avoid picking ones own clothes? To try and sneak three pound weights into Sandringham? Don’t steal coats from scarecrows? Who the fuck knows. All I’ll say is: if you feel a hankering to watch a mousy woman smelling of sick and breath mints having a breakdown in a stately home alongside the incessant sound of white jazz, infuriating close-ups, and hazy cinematography, Spencer is for you!

After two weeks of fawning on BBC’s Film Review programme, I had to go and watch this “bold” and “truthful” movie, but bold and truthful it wasn’t. The overvaluing of mediocrity such as this film is yet more proof that Mark Kermode has lost it. I mean, this one-time horror buff likened Spencer to The Shining! Seriously? Because what… there’s long corridors in it? There’s also talk of lead actor Kristen Stewart deserving an Oscar because of her so-called accurate portrayal. Running around teary-eyed isn’t a stretch for Stewart, in fact that’s kinda what she’s known for. I guess since Pablo Larraín directed this shite, and he similarly helped Natalie Portman get an Academy Award nomination for doing a caricatured impression of Jackie Kennedy in the overrated Jackie, why not repeat this feat of bullshit?

In terms of plot, it’s just more royalist entertainment, albeit from a different angle. I have to say that the idolising of Diana Spencer, Princess Diana, or Lady Die, sorry, Lady Di, has to stop. Fetishising royals (or more accurately certain royals) as nonconformist free-spirits is the epitome of madness if you’re a commoner. Ever since Diana was allegedly merc’d in a Merc, she’s been almost deified by the media, and over the last two decades or so, as anti-royal sentiment has quietly grown, we’ve seen the promotion of Diana and her two sprogs as outsiders and mavericks. Spencer is playing its part in portraying Di as some kind of anti-establishment hero; one of the people (who drives a drop-top Porsche no less).

Lets not forget that Diana bore the British Royal Family an heir or two, and sired a racist tin soldier in the process. She’s therefore not anti-royal or anti-anything else. Just because she was bulimic and her big-eared husband cheated on her, she isn’t someone to be looked up to and she damn sure isn’t some kind of feminist icon. After leaving Prince Charles she hooked-up with another rich man (and another). She couldn’t hack it on her own without the financial aide of a surgeon or the son of a billionaire.

But forget all that. The character in Spencer does away with truths because, remember, this is a “fable”. This Spencer doesn’t enjoy pheasant shooting, her dad gives his old clothes to the farmer next door, she eats fast food, she listens to Mike & The Mechanics, she masturbates, the northern chef has a soft-spot for her, and a lesbian aide has a crush on her, so yeah, she’s definitely one of us. 🧐 She’s also referred to (on paper at least) as “P.O.W.”, not because she’s the “Princess Of Wales” but because she was a prisoner in that family! 🙄 Never mind listening to “All I Need Is A Miracle”, writer Steven Knight might as well have said Diana’s “O.P.P.” hat meant she was a fan of Naughty By Nature since we’re telling red, white, and blue-blooded porkies.

On a side-note, if you order “three times chicken” (whatever the frig that means) from KFC how does one end up with a bucket? And for all her fondness for pheasants, Diana doesn’t look like she gives a toss about chickens, probably because there’s more of them, so god only knows what she actually thought of us sixty-something million Brits.

I’ll acknowledge that biopics are generally revisionist but Spencer is out and out propaganda, for all the reasons outlined above. If you don’t believe that obsequiousness towards the upper-classes, the royals, and the rich is occurring in Hollywood, try and get an alternate screenplay green-lit about Diana. How about making a movie about a failed ballerina dancing around landmines, who touched AIDS victims… then asked for Purell, since we’re making shit out of thin air? Watch that film get rushed through production… not.

I’m not a pheasant plucker,
But a pheasant plucker’s mum,
I’ll sit here plucking peasants,
‘Til the peasant plucking’s done.

Writing: 2/10

Directing: 3/10

Acting: 4/10

Overall: 3/10

2 replies »

  1. I often wonder if all film directors/producers had severe head concussions staying at home in Calabasas or Beverly Hills or whatever, and that’s the reason there are so many shit films…

  2. Touche. A most refreshing and quite funny review. This film was mostly a huge Downton Abbeyesque bore to me and it’s nice to get some confirmation that I’m not completely out of my mind.

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