The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
*Warning* Spoilers ahead!
Growing up, I’ve always felt a connection to Princess Diana. As someone who has struggled with depression and eating disorders in the past, Diana always felt like a friend, or even a matriarchal figure in my life. For years I’ve watched the story of Diana in different formats: documentaries, mini-series, biopics and fiction. I’ve collected magazines with her face gracing the cover and official Diana and Charles wedding cups and plates. You name it––if Diana was on it, I was buying it. This all being said, I was obviously very excited when I heard that a new movie about Diana was being made. Having recently watched The Crown and being pleased with Emma Corrin’s depiction, I had high hopes that this movie would follow in the footsteps of other recent Diana portrayals. I was most definitely wrong.
The night of the movie, I walked into the theatre with a bag of popcorn and overwhelming excitement. Going into the film, I had already read reviews praising the plot and Kristen Stewart’s performance. I also already knew that, rather than being a full documentary film, the movie would focus on a three-day Christmas weekend at Balmoral Castle. You see, it wasn’t any of these things that were the problem, in fact, Stewart’s performance was the most enjoyable part of the entire abomination.
The first and most obvious fault of the film is its overt overuse of symbolism. The movie is very insistent that the audience understands why Diana feels bad for the pheasants and incessantly overplays the caged bird analogy. Even worse than this is the omnipresent Anne Boleyn. Every so often the audience is greeted with an imagined ghost of the former royal that Diana cannot get out of her head, and at one point we even see the princess running down a hallway in the dead queen’s clothing, being sure to seal the deal that we do, indeed, understand that Diana feels just like Anne Boleyn did. What could have been portrayed with a simple book cover, unfortunately, became ceaseless nagging throughout the film. With the symbolism came the insinuation of Diana’s insanity. Her character was constantly hallucinating and imagining things which, combined with an anxiety-inducing, overwhelming soundtrack painting a picture of mental instability, was too much for my liking. Diana’s bulimia was the main focus of the film as was her self-harm, which left a bad taste in my mouth. I know that the director, Pablo Larrain, is known for psychological thrillers (see his similar biopic Jackie), but when telling a story about a beloved figure who actually lived, I don’t think exaggerating real human struggle and turning it into a horror film can be done in good faith. This all being said, Kristen Stewart did a fantastic job at copying some of Diana’s more recognizable mannerisms and played the part very well, the character just wasn’t the real Diana.
The real kicker within this movie though was the poorly done, completely unnecessary queer plotline. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, Diana’s dresser confesses her feelings for the princess and we, as viewers, are then taken through an almost-montage of romantic moments between the two. There are so many problems with this, including, but not limited to, the fact that Diana was never rumoured to have been queer and the fact that the plotline added nothing to the story. It was incredibly rushed and felt like a disservice to the LGBTQ+ community that left me pulling my hair out in the theatre. If the writers were to have created this fictional Diana and given her a legitimate, well-thought-out queer plotline, that would have been fine by me, but the unnecessary throw-in of the couple felt like an attention grab gone very wrong.
All in all, if you are looking for an interesting and accurate depiction of Diana Spencer’s life, I suggest turning toward The Crown, but certainly not to Spencer. Although, if you’re interested in Kristen Stewart looking pretty in period-accurate clothing, some on-the-nose overt symbolism and a not-at-all-accurate thriller/horror plotline about a beloved figure, then this one’s for you!