An antidote to “The Queen”

As has been the trend in several biopics of late, this look at Princess Di focuses on one brief albeit defining period in her life. In this case, it’s the Christmas 1991 weekend she spent with the Royal Family at their monstrous pile of stones at Sandringham in Norfolk, during which she decided to end her marriage to Prince Charles.  She had been struggling with royalty-induced mental illness for some time, and simply grabbed her sons and opted out.

Directed by Chile’s Pablo Larrain from a screenplay by Steven Knight, this exquisitely staged film would be worth seeing anyway. But the reason this ghost/underdog/mother’s story is a must-see this year is the inspired casting of the Oscar-nominated Kristen Stewart (blimey, a yank!) in the title role. It’s probably not an accident that the title is not Princess of Wales, but Diana’s maiden name. 

Stewart goes beyond nailing her subject’s voice and awkward mannerisms, but brings an edge to her performance that wholly befits the film’s occasional absurdist, paranoic bits. It’s really quite a remarkable, immersive performance; no mere impersonation.

She is backed up by the incomparable Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins, as well as by Claire Mathon’s stark, claustrophobic cinematography and Jonny Greenwood’s droning, discordant jazz soundtrack. One wag praised it as a movie that will piss off all the right people. (117 min)