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Pablo Larrain
Kristin Stewart, Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins
Writing Credits:
Steven Knight

During her Christmas holidays with the royal family, Princess Diana confronts the stress brought on by her fame and status.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $25.99
Release Date: 1/11/2022

• “The Making of Spencer” Featurette
• Trailer & Previews


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Spencer [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 24, 2022)

Back in 2016, Pablo Larrain directed Jackie, a look at former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy that took place over a brief but pivotal period of time. With 2021’s Spencer, Larrain creates an effort that takes a similar approach to Princess Diana.

As Christmas 1991 approaches, the English royal family heads to their estate in Norfolk. This happens with the backdrop of a faltering marriage between Price Charles (Jack Farthing) and Princess Diana (Kristin Spencer), one strained largely due to his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emma Darwall-Smith).

While the clan goes through various festivities, the reality of the situation weighs on Diana’s mind. With her mental state in decline, Diana devotes much energy to various personal domains.

As I’ve noted many times, I prefer biopics that concentrate on a limited time span versus those that go for a broader chronological span. Whereas the latter tend to feel like general “greatest hits” reels, the former manage greater introspection and psychological impact.

In theory, at least, as that didn’t prove accurate with Jackie. Though that one offered some flashbacks to early days, it largely viewed its title character in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination, and it lacked much real depth or emotional meaning.

If one hopes to find anything better from Spencer, one will encounter disappointment. The film offers a shallow, superficial view of its subject that feels downright monotonous.

Larrain beats us over the head with the view of Diana as trapped and suffocated by a family more concerned with tradition and appearances than happiness. From virtually start to finish, we see Diana as miserable and beaten-down by the pressures of royal life.

Sure, I can accept that. Simply because one lives a life of immense wealth and privilege doesn’t ensure that one leads a content existence, and rich folks are just as messed up as the rest of us.

Unfortunately, Spencer simply fails to find an interesting way to tell the tale of Diana’s issues. Essentially we get 117 minutes of Diana as she mopes and pities herself, without much else to leaven the tedium.

At times Spencer threatens a little more intrigue because it leans into Diana's erratic mental state. For instance, in one scene, she tears off a necklace and eats the pearls in her soup.

It seems clear the film doesn’t intend this as a literal event, but Spencer portrays it in a way that blends with the rest of the tale. This means we find ourselves submerged in Diana’s perspective.

However, Spencer rarely finds an insightful way to portray this POV. Instead, we just watch Diana as she pouts and sulks, without any actual insights beyond Poor Little Rich Girl.

Again, I don’t intend to seem dismissive of the problems faced by the wealthy, and indeed, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a fishbowl of fame like that through which Diana went. Nonetheless, Spencer can’t locate an interesting and rich way to investigate her situation.

As such, we wind up with the monotony I mentioned, and Stewart’s performance doesn’t help. She bats her eyes and speaks in a breathy, staccato way that makes me wonder if she felt she got cast as Marilyn Monroe. Stewart does nothing to elevate the thin script.

As I alluded at the start, I appreciate the approach Spencer takes in that it focuses on a short period of time in its subject’s life. Unfortunately, the end result just meanders and bores.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Spencer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Apparently shot mainly on Super 16mm stock, Spencer looked fine for the format but nonetheless suffered from those limitations.

Most of the concerns stemmed from iffy definition. Close-ups looked good, and most wider exteriors showed decent detail. However, these elements lacked great delineation and could veer toward the mushy side.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to manifest themselves. No print flaws appeared.

In terms of colors, Spencer mixed blue/teal and amber/orange. The tones tended to seem a bit flat, again due to the nature of the film stock, but they didn’t come across as problematic.

Blacks were reasonably deep and dense, while shadows were acceptable; they could be a little murky, but that wasn’t a serious issue. Objectively, this wasn’t a great image, but given the restrictions of the source, I thought it deserved a “C+”.

Due to its status as a low-key character piece, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Spencer didn’t get many opportunities to shine. Nonetheless, it offered a perfectly acceptable soundscape for this sort of film.

Music filled out the spectrum well, and the general sense of environment worked fine. Much of the movie remained low-key, but the track suited the material, with enough environmental information to seem realistic.

Audio quality was satisfactory. Music fared best, as the score appeared vibrant and full.

Effects usually stayed subdued, but they always came across as accurate. Speech sounded crisp and distinctive. Nothing here really impressed, but the soundtrack was worth a “B-”.

The Making of Spencer runs seven minutes, 58 seconds and features notes from director Pablo Larrain, production designer Guy Hendrix-Dyas, producer Paul Webster, hair and makeup designer Wakana Yoshihara, and actors Kristin Stewart, Timothy Spall, and Jack Farthing.

The show looks at story and screenplay, Larrain’s approach to the project, cast and performances, and reflections on Princess Diana. Expect nothing more than happy talk.

The disc opens with ads for Titane and Flee. We also find a trailer for Spencer.

If you hope to find insights related to the life of Princess Diana via Spencer, you will encounter only disappointment. Slow and tedious, the movie lacks depth or introspection. The Blu-ray comes with adequate picture and audio as well as minor supplements. This turns into a flawed and not especially compelling biographical effort.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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