Showing posts with label Spencer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spencer. Show all posts

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Rosy the Reviewer reviews some movies you might not know about: "Spencer," "King Richard" and "CODA"

[I review the Princess Diana biopic "Spencer" as well as "King Richard" and "CODA,"  all new movies that have some Golden Globe nominations for either Best Picture or for acting kudos]

Spencer (2021)

A biopic about Princess Diana.

As a huge Princess Diana fan, I paid the $19.98 to Amazon Prime (also available On Demand) to have early access to this film.  It's in theatres, too, so I figured that's what it would cost for Hubby and me to see it if we went out.  I also thought the film would be worth the price of a ticket just to see Kristen Stewart smile.  Think about it.  When have you ever seen her smile?  Well, she didn't here, either.  Or maybe once.

But Stewart did a good job of portraying Diana over the course of a Christmas weekend at Sandringham.  I wish I could say the same about the film itself portraying Diana. 

This is not a flattering portrait of Diana.

It begins in 1991 with Diana driving her car to Sandringham, the royal estate in eastern England where the family likes to spend Christmas.  Fittingly, Diana actually grew up on the estate as a young girl before her father became Earl and moved to Althorp.  This is all hinted at in the film, but if you didn't know that about her, you would either miss those references or scratch your head and wonder what the heck was that all about - her going in the night to see her old house. In these early scenes, Diana comes off as a bit of a flibbertigibbet and, yes, this film depicts a time toward the end of her marriage to Prince Charles when things were coming off the rails, but I didn't appreciate this film making her look completely nuts, which she wasn't. 

The truth of the matter was that Diana was a 19-year-old virgin, chosen to marry the 30-something-year-old Prince Charles who needed to mend his bachelor ways and settle down.  She loved him, he didn't love her.  When they were first engaged and asked by reporters if they were in love, Diana replied "Of course."  Charles nodded and said something like "Whatever in love means."  Right there, I knew she was in trouble. Despite some years where they appeared to be happy as they raised their two sons, Charles was actually in love with someone else the whole time and Diana knew it.  So that would drive me crazy too, which being in her shoes myself, it kind of did (yes, that happened to me, but I wasn't married to a prince).

To make matters worse, over the course of this one weekend, I repeat one, that was depicted in the film, Diana runs the gamut of everything we heard she went through over the entire course of her 15-year marriage: bulimia, hanging out downstairs in the kitchen and stuffing herself with food, wandering around the estate at night, trying to throw herself down the stairs, her paranoia.  On and on. But then the filmmakers really lost me when she is depicted breaking her pearl necklace at dinner and trying to eat it, I said, "What the hell?" I also couldn't help but ask myself, "What was the point of making this film?" To make Diana look bad? And what was the point of the title?

I know, the film was going back and forth between fantasy and reality to show Diana unraveling in the stultifying atmosphere of the royal family. I get that, but it just went from one crazy act to another.  Fifteen years of marriage bundled into two hours.  It was just too much.

After the weekend ends and we have endured a tedious two hours of Diana-bashing, she drives off with her sons and there is some sort of rapproachment where it appears she is finally going to find herself and become independent, which I guess is where the title came in. When asked at a KFC drive through (though, god help me, why KFC?  One more insult to Diana), who the order was for, she answers "Spencer."  But too little too late. 

This is also one of those films that does everything in real time.  Diana is going to walk down the hall?  Well, she walks...down...the...hall. To make matters worse, the soundtrack was annoying, like fingernails on a chalkboard, and veteran actors Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall were wasted here.  

When I first heard that Kristin Stewart was going to play Diana, I didn't see it at all, but if you are going to make a film about a very unhappy time in Princess Diana's life, then Stewart was a good choice because no one does scowling like she does.  And that iconic Diana hairstyle helped a lot. Stewart actually looked like her.  Her acting was fine (she is nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance)  and her accent was even okay, but let's just say, I am sure Diana smiled much more than Stewart did here, even when her life was in shambles.

So Kristen Stewart wasn't the problem I had with this movie.

Written by Steven Knight and directed by Pablo Larrain, if I didn't know better, I would think this film was backed by the royal family themselves to show what they had to put up with and to justify their actions.  Though beautifully produced and well-acted, there was just no context to what led up to how nutty Diana was acting in this film. Yes, there were some snippets of a lonely little child (Diana's mother ran off with another man) and Diana's need for love but all of that was so fleeting, if you didn't already know her story, it certainly wouldn't justify this characterization of her. The filmmakers probably thought they could get off the hook with all of the liberties they took with Diana's story by stating at the outset that this film is a "fable."  But I'm not letting them.  This was a horror story.

And what makes me the most mad is this: 

Remember, Diana died almost 25 years ago.  There is a whole generation of people who probably don't really know the details of Diana's life, what she went through, how she overcame it and the good that she did.   Princess Diana was a young woman who was fed to the royal lions at age 19, eventually found herself and became an advocate for those who couldn't speak for themselves. But this movie shows nothing of that and paints a very negative portrait of her and I can't stand to think of her remembered this way. So I didn't appreciate this very dark portrayal of a dead woman who can't now speak for herself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...can you tell that this movie made me really mad? It was a huge disappointment.  Save your money. 

King Richard (2021)

How Venus and Serena Williams rose to the highest echelons of the tennis world – because their dad Richard Williams, had a plan for them even before they were born.
This is a biopic done right, and it’s also Will Smith as you have never seen him. If you didn’t know it was Will Smith, I would bet you would not recognize him here playing Venus and Serena's Dad, Richard Williams, a man who had a plan for his daughters and who carried it out. He transforms himself and is just wonderful.
And speaking of Richard Williams, think about it, this guy was an African American with five daughters living in Compton, California in the 1990’s. His wife worked as a nurse by day, he worked security by night and spent all of his free time working with his daughters, keeping them focused, prepping them to win at tennis, up until then, predominantly a sport for white people who could afford the country club. He was a controversial figure who faced racism and barriers but, he had an unwavering plan. His motto: “If you fail to plan then you plan to fail” and he instilled that in his daughters.
With a screenplay by Zach Baylin and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, this is also a great sports movie with lots of tennis footage, but you don’t need to like tennis to love this movie, but if you are a tennis fan, you will love it even more. And the epilogue will make you cry.

Smith is joined by an outstanding ensemble cast highlighted by performances by Aunjanue Ellis in a small but pivotal role as Richard's wife and Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena respectively. It all adds up to a wonderful film experience not to be missed.
Rosy the Reviewer says…Just an extraordinary performance by Will who doesn't often get props for his acting. This time he has been rewarded with a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination. I expect that the Academy will also recognize him. This should be on your list of Must Sees!
(In theatres and on HBO Max)

CODA (2021)

A young hearing teen, whose family is deaf, is torn between caring for her family and striking out on her own.

Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is a CODA, a Child of Deaf Adults. Her parents Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Jackie (Marlee Matlin) are both deaf as is her brother, Leo (Daniel Durant), and as the only hearing member of her family, interpreting their sign language for others is one of her main duties. The family lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Frank and Leo are both fisherman. It's a hardscrabble life as prices for their fish go lower and lower. But they are a close-knit, loving family. As for Ruby, she is a high school student and we learn that she was bullied as a child because "she talked like a deaf person," which makes sense if she didn't have speech role models who were hearing people. She has some insecurities and is still being bullied by the "mean girls," but Ruby is slowly starting to literally find. her voice. She joins the high school glee club where she is befriended by the music teacher (Eugenio Derbez), who though he employs tough love to his students and is not easily impressed, he thinks Ruby has talent and encourages her to apply to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

So that's the plan until the family fishing business takes a hit.

When the family realizes that the fishermen are being taken advantage of by big business, they strike out on their own and form a fishing co-op, but then Ruby's father and brother are busted by the Coast Guard, because they are not supposed to be out on the boat without a hearing person - and they face losing the business unless Ruby stays home and continues to act as the ears of the family and ride with her father and brother on the boat. Ruby has a beautiful singing voice and wants to go to college and develop her talent. But her parents need her to be their voice. They don't want her to go. What to do, what to do, when you are a caring, loving, responsible girl?

Let's just say there is lots and lots of family guilt aimed at Ruby. But then her brother gives her a pep talk. Remember that scene in "Good Will Hunting," where Ben Affleck tells Matt Damon if he doesn't get out of the town and make something of himself, he's a pussy? Well, this is like that and, thus, there is another kind of coda at work here, the musical one and the figurative one that marks a conclusion...a happy Ruby's very moving college audition that will make you cry.

Based on the 2014 French comedy "La Famille Belier" and adapted and directed by Sian Heder, this is a fairly predictable coming-of-age tale. A kid has a dream but has to choose between the dream and (you fill in the blanks).


Despite the predictability of the plot, the film is saved by the charm of lead actress Jones and her co-stars who are all deaf actors in real life and the insight this film provides into a story you don't see or hear much about - a deaf family, a young hearing girl with lives in two different worlds - the deaf world and the hearing world - and the profound love and respect among the family members, despite their differences. It's all very real. The family may be deaf but they share the same concerns and issues as everyone else.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a satisfying film marked by a wonderful, real story and wonderful real performances. Recently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture-Drama, this charming and heart-warming film already has 53 other nominations and 21 wins. It's a must!
(Now streaming on Apple+)


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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!