What is it?
The Official Teaser Trailer for Spencer, the feverishly anticipated biopic of Lady Diana Spencer. Kristen Stewart is the unhappy wife of Prince Charles, the writer is Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) and the director is Pablo Larraín (Jackie).
What’s the story?
Christmas 1991 at The Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. The royal family are converging, the lobster is defrosting, the impossibly calorific soup is being pumped with cream and divine couture tagged “POW – lunch” and “POW – departure” is being laid out. “POW”, btw, stands for Princess of Wales, not Prisoner of War… or does it?
Hiding in the bathroom, all rabbit-in-the-headlights eyes, feverish brow and, yes, sweeping fringe. “Ma’am,” says a lady-in-waiting, “they’re waiting for you.” Meanwhile, “they” are portrayed as a bunch of whey-faced, tweedy toffs who can’t contain the dancing, twirling, colourful frock-wearing People’s Princess. They definitely can’t – IRL, the following year Diana and Charles’ separation was announced.
Not to be confused with…
…the upcoming fifth season of The Crown, in which Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) is the unhappy wife of Prince Charles, taking over from Emma Corrin, who was Lady Diana Spencer, future unhappy wife etc, in last year’s fourth series. Corrin won awards galore for introducing the coy, fringe-peeping teenage aristo to a new generation.
…Jackie (2016), Chilean director Larraín’s last English-language film. It was the biopic of another glamorous, fashion-forward, deeply traumatised first lady of royalty, in this case, Jackie Kennedy, in the months immediately before and after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Natalie Portman was rightly Oscar-nominated for her performance.
And definitely not with…
…Diana, the catastrophic 2013 biopic in which Naomi Watts was the troubled fugitive from the House of Windsor in the final two years of her life. “The Queen of Hearts has been recast as a sad-sack singleton that even Bridget Jones would cross the street to avoid,” thundered the man from The Mirror. “I hesitate to use the term ‘car crash drama,’” frowned The Guardian’s film critic. “But the awful truth is that, 16 years after that terrible day in 1997, she has died another awful death.”
So, no pressure then?
Frightful pressure! Those other onscreen incarnations aside, almost a quarter-century on from her death, Diana is lionised by a whole new generation as a paragon of virtue, beauty and charity, a saintly woman who floats irreproachably above the unseemly squabbles that characterise the current royal family. Plus, she’s American!
Sorry, who is?
Keep up – Kristen Stewart! You might know her as Bella Swan from the Twilight movies. And despite being front and centre in only the greatest vampire love story franchise of all time, the actor is also feeling the pressure. “It’s hard not to feel protective over her,” the 31-year-old Los Angeleno told Jimmy Kimmel last November. “She was so young… everyone’s perspective is different, and there’s no way to get everything right.”
From the images released so far, she kinda looks like Diana – but does she sound like her?
As Stewart admitted to InStyle last autumn, “the accent is intimidating as all hell because people know that voice, and it’s so, so distinct and particular.” Right now it’s hard to tell from her two words of dialogue in the trailer – when Sally Hawkins’ character says, “they know everything”, Stewart-as-Diana replies: “They don’t.” But on that admittedly scant evidence, she’s nailed it. We’ll know more after Spencer’s world premiere at next month’s Venice Film Festival.
What’s the music like?
Palace-scale irony: the choral version of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, by oddly-named Belgian women’s choir Scala and Kolacny Brothers.
Is Spencer a right royal treat, or another… I hesitate to use the term “car crash drama”…?
Jackie had an icy, devastating brilliance, in its performances, colour palette and its exploration of the callous claustrophobia of power. On the evidence of this trailer’s 71 seconds, Spencer has all those qualities, too. And Stewart is obviously brilliant, so… we’re crowning it a winner.
When’s it out?
5th November 2021 in the US, with a UK date as yet unannounced. That date, of course, is Bonfire Night here. Will Spencer light another fire under the British establishment? Yikes!