If “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper” didn’t already solidify that Kristen Stewart is a gifted actress whose “Twilight” films are in the rear view of her career, here comes “Spencer” from Pablo Larraín. Portraying a fictional version of Princess Diana, Stewart pours all of herself into the role that could yield her first Oscar nomination (even win). But will the Neon pic be able to garner more from the Academy?
After debuting at Venice and Telluride, the raves for Stewart’s daring performance were fast and fierce from critics and festival attendees. Casual moviegoers, however, are going to have trouble engaging with the material. If Neon wants to have a fighting chance at a best picture nomination, it will need to up its efforts to notify the public, and voting groups, that this is not a biopic on the late princess. Using the term “fable,” as seen in the movie’s opening text, may not be doing the trick. In fact, as soon as the credits began rolling, a woman sitting behind me at the Telluride screening loudly said, “That was stupid. That was not Diana.”
Larraín, utilizing a script from Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight, could be in the conversation, more likely as a lone directing nominee a la Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”) and last year’s Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”). The director of “Jackie” has etched out his own lane, creating unconventional biopics with elements of horror. The disturbing imagery could bring it into the convo for cinematography, and the beautiful sets and gowns are likely to pop into the fray for production and costumes.
Composer Jonny Greenwood, who also worked on “The Power of the Dog,” could find himself a double nominee, following Alexandre Desplat for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Shape of Water.” Coincidentally, Desplat could also be a double bidder again for “The French Dispatch” and “Nightmare Alley.”
If Stewart hopes to win best actress, more nominations will be needed for the film. Charlize Theron is the last winner, who was on her first nomination, to be the sole nominee for her movie (“Monster” in 2004).
This is not only Stewart’s gift to cinema, but her gift to Diana, giving her the happy ending she always deserved.