Personal Shopper can best be summed up by the following film references: The Devil Wears Prada meets The Sixth Sense told through an art-house lens.
Next to her newly shaved head, Kristen Stewart’s indie film Personal Shopper is the latest buzz-worthy presentation coming from the multi-hyphenated actress/director/Chanel ambassador. Stewart fully breaks free from whatever vampire blockbuster chains she had left as she transforms into an emotionally complex and intriguing fashion stylist who dabbles in connecting with the spirit world in the hopes of finding closure from her twin brother’s death. Unfortunately, even with her strength and vulnerability portrayed in full force, she still can’t quite overshadow the gaps and confusion stemming from a questionable script and tonal imbalance.
Stewart continues to uphold her indie darling status by reteaming with French director Olivier Assayas (see: 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria) for this intimate psychological thriller. Here she plays Maureen, an American living in Paris as a personal shopper for a local celebrity, Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). The glitz and the glamour of this high-fashion life do not faze her (at first), as Maureen throws herself into the position as well as the extracurricular activity of looking for a sign from her deceased brother. Both born with the same heart defect, the siblings made a pact that whoever passed first would send the other a sign. Maureen is now adamant that she cannot leave the city her brother died in until she is confident he has made his presence known to her.
At first, Maureen brushes off the text messages from an Unknown number as just a prank or even inappropriate cyberstalking. What she did not expect was to be followed (haunted, if you will) by a presence she could not see or feel. As she becomes consumed by her phone and the anticipation of the next text, Maureen begins to unravel at the seams. Exposing her vulnerabilities brought on by her phone, she is pushed out of her comfort zone by the unfamiliar messenger, and finally caves by acting out her wildest fantasies. Wearing Kyra’s forbidden clothes and sleeping in her bed while she’s out of town are just the tip of the iceberg. It is only when Maureen stumbles upon a murder that she is forced to take an introspective look at herself and face her demons, once and for all.
Essentially acting opposite herself, she commands the picture with a quiet strength that I would love to see more of.
The French filmmaker’s high fashion-meets-ghost story tale proves to be a divisive watch (despite winning the Best Director award the Cannes Film Festival, as well as a nomination for the prestigious Palme d’Or– the honor ended up going to the British film “I, Daniel Blake”). Visually, the film is a nice balance between glitzy and gritty, but leaving the superficiality of looks aside, Personal Shopper leaves much to be desired. It is one thing to engage an audience in staying actively attentive, but a “choose your own adventure” scenario, which is what I felt like Personal Shopper ended up being, did a disservice to the film. Numerous setups never paid off and genre-blending felt inconsistent as opposed to fluid. However, it is undeniable that Kristen Stewart is magnetic to watch onscreen. Essentially acting opposite herself, she commands the picture with a quiet strength that I would love to see more of.
Personal Shopper can best be summed up by the following film references: The Devil Wears Prada meets The Sixth Sense told through an arthouse lens. Yes, the story seems unbelievable at times, but despite its flaws, Kristen Stewart emerges out from under the weight of this somewhat confusing script as a shining beacon of cinematic vision.
‘Personal Shopper’ is rated R for some language, sexuality, nudity and a bloody violent image. 105 minutes. Now playing in select cities, including ArcLight Hollywood and the Landmark.