REVIEW: “SPENCER” (2021) Neon Films

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Having high hopes going into director Pablo Larrain’s “SPENCER” considering how much I enjoyed ‘Jackie‘, I was surprised to find myself truly wondering what it was that I was watching and then remembering the word ‘fable’ being brought out at the beginning. And that is at least somewhat of an explanation for this sad tale of a film that I find myself having a hard time trying to describe how I felt about it. Two things I think I can justifiably say this film is a fictional thriller using factual characters, who apparently only speak in poems and riddles and it is definitely not a biography.

The set up is Christmas 1991, and Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), is driving herself to Sandringham Castle in a Porsche convertible no less, through country roads speeding along casually, something that realistically would never happen, but again, it’s a fable so why not. She gets completely lost even though she acknowledges she’s been there so many times before, but not before stopping in a small diner-type country restaurant and pretending almost awkwardly that she is not just a Princess, but regular country folk like they are, all the while in her upscale Chanel clothing. After arriving late and after the Queen, a huge faux pas in the world of royalty, she is clearly targeted by the rest of the family at this point. And here is where it really goes off rails as we all know yes, there was a Diana vs. The Royal Family dynamic, but this film takes that to a whole different level. With visions belying her at every corner, including Anne Boleyn to what I’m guessing is supposed to be taken as a warning for Diana to not fall into a similar fate, as she is literally shown as being a whiney, complaining, consistently late for everything, and Larrain makes her out to be so unpleasant and self-centered, you almost wonder if you would want her as your dinner companion at all.

There is much to follow here as the film continues an almost odd over-the-top portrayal of Princess Diana, with only small bits of actual fact here and there. The bulimia we all know she suffered from is shown up front and personal, yet almost made fun of at other moments. There is an odd whole scenario of a scarecrow which follows us throughout the film, without ever really giving good reason except for the fact that she speaks and dresses it like a human, and a psychedelic dance sequence I’ve yet to figure out. I understand why some may like it, but it’s completely void of any relevance to the Princess Diana and Royal Family story that actually took place. I think my entire beef with this film is that they made her look whiney, weak and mental and I just don’t think Stewart did her justice for me. It wasn’t terrible mind you as Stewart is good, but by far not great and by just simply adding to her actual personality, having a blonde short haircut and a not so Diana English accent, she didn’t encapsulate who or what Princess Diana really was. It wasn’t terrible – but I just didn’t feel the way so many do as besides the haircut she didn’t fit Diana’s personality for me, it’s as though she was almost too distracting for me is how I can best say it. But maybe that was the point – not sure.

It is undoubtedly beautiful to look at, the score is immediately captivating, as well as the costumes, production design + cinematography are the standouts as is her supporting cast of Timothy Spall as Major Alistar Gregory, who comes off as ‘foe’ at first, but might actually be ‘friend’ instead, as well as Sally Hawkins playing her maid en confidante’ Maggie. We barely see Jack Farthing as Prince Charles, and as well The Queen either played by Stella Gonet. The way they portray her is a choice a very unsympathetic and annoying ‘choice’ that was certainly very off putting but the standout part is it did show her love for her sons as I don’t think any film could ever deny that. Again, I realize I’m in the minority here on this one, but one can’t help or deny how one feels about a film as it is truly something each person puts in perspective on their own. But in essence for me, Diana was a strong independent woman who was roped into a lie, and dealt with it better than most, while crashing at times, I wanted them to show the part of how she used it all that and made it her strengths versus weakness.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“SPENCER” FROM NEON FILMS – IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW 

REVIEW: “JACKIE” (2016) Fox Searchlight

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Jacqueline Bouvier. Jackie Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie O. Jackie. There are many ways to refer to this iconic woman – and many ways to remember her. That breathy voice. That educated and sophisticated demeanor. Her sense of style… including that pink suit stained with the blood of her husband. Holding her own as she watched the Vice President Lyndon B. Johnon (John Carroll Lynch) be sworn in merely hours after the President’s assasination.

“JACKIE” is about all of this. Though the film fills the span of only short perod in time – the day of and the few days following then President John F. Kennedy’s (Caspar Phillipson) assasination in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. The story is told in the narrative of Jacqueline Kennedy herself (Natalie Portman) to “Life” Magazine writer Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup), who arrives at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to interview her just one week after the assassination. Mrs. Kennedy is concerned that her husband may be forgotten – or misunderstood by history. White is deferential, firm but professional. He finds a woman who is clearly still grieving her horrible loss, but who is also very much in control of herself – and very much in control of what she wants regarding her husband’s legacy – even to the point of making sure she edits White’s notes during the interview.
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While returning periodically to the scenes of the interview, most of Jackie’s story is told in flashback scenes of her as First Lady – especially on that fateful day in November of 1963 – and the four days that followed. With a lot of the story being told in this fashion, the film is trying to paint us a picture of who Jackie really was while First Lady. We get the famous televised tour of the White House that she did, the first ever of it’s kind. And while some parts of this come off as sometimes portraying her as a caricature at times, it’s also giving us a glimpse into something never seen before by the American public at the time.
We get insight into her strengths and weakness in the days following. How she interacts and stands up for what she wants for the funeral to Special Assistant Jack Valenti (Max Casella) but yet, sleeping pills, chain smoking and alcohol are also playing a big role in her coping mechanisms.
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“Jackie” is fascinating and compelling. The script and direction shed a lot of light on what happened (and might have happened) during the private moments of this very public national nightmare, while painting a very personal portrait of Jackie Kennedy. At times the editing and the chronology of events, while not very difficult to follow, simply jump around too much. Portman is really good here and it was great to see Crudup back in a strong supporting, even if he looks completely different and Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s long time assistant, Nancy Tuckerman and Peter Sarsgaard does well as Robert Kennedy even though he looks really nothing like the real RFK, which also was quite noticable with other actors also.
The films score also ‘scored’ with me as it seemly was a life of Camelot to all of those looking in from the outside.

All in all, this film moved me. I rarely get emotional or cry during a film, yet the tragedy of it all got to me more than once. This film might have it’s misses, but all in all, it’s very special and should be seen.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Friday, November 18, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.