Kristen Stewart Gives the Performance of her Career
Directed by: Oliver Assayas/2017
Personal Shopper is about a spiritual medium named Maureen (Kristen Stewart). She is an American in Paris and is called upon to ascertain if a house a French couple is considering buying is haunted with a spirit. But in this case, it’s not just a spirit, but rather the spirit of her brother. The house belonged to him and his fiancée Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz).
Maureen isn’t doing this for the couple, though helping them seems to be icing on the cake, but rather for herself and her late brother. He was also a medium and together they shared a heart condition that victimized him first, as he died of a heart attack. With death constantly around the corner for both, it seems to make sense they would be fascinated with the dead. And together they made a pact to contact the other when the first was to die.
The film feels confused, nothing really gels and the final scene feels like it was pulled from a college thesis film. But I’m still recommending it.
So why is this movie called Personal Shopper? That would be because there is a whole other element to the film where Maureen works for a rich, bourgeois and terrible woman who is too high-profile to possibly go shop for herself. Maureen, who seems to be everything opposite of this, including having a fetish for doing forbidden things, reluctantly does this job she considers horrible so she can focus on the spirits, specifically her brother
Olivier Assayas, who is re-teaming with Stewart, is a very good director and there are times in this film that you know you’re in the hands of a master. There is a good 10 minutes of this movies that is just a text message conversation. You have to have guts to confidently do that and know you won’t lose the audience. And he does it without losing them. But Personal Shopper cannot decide if it’s a character study (as the title hints at) or a straight horror movie. Instead, it pulls from whichever genre it wants when necessary and dismisses when not.
There is a scene in the aforementioned text conversation where Maureen text that she hates horror movies. She criticizes the weak and stupid ways women react in horror movies, thus foreshadowing something that happens later. This scene was baffling as I’m not sure if Assayas actually feels this way about horror and is trying to be above the genre. Because if that is the case, I’d say a bigger problem with some horror is contrived logic to create a conflict, like your brother dying of a heart condition but promised to speak to you from the other side. Or if he’s just being meta and funny. And in that case, I’d say Scream literally made the same joke 21 years ago.
The film feels confused, nothing really gels and the final scene feels like it was pulled from a college thesis film. But I’m still recommending it. Based on the skillful directing, in spite of some of the writing, and for Kristen Stewart, who is just outstanding. I love the way she is morphing into her generation’s best actor, especially when viewers who are not privy to her independent work still just knock her for Twilight.
So with that, check out Personal Shopper when it’s convenient. But just be ready for a plot and set of ideas that are lost and floating between two entities, much like a spirit longing to be heard with no direction.