Personal Shopper Review: A Fashionable Watch for Select Tastes
Kristen Stewart teams up once again with director Olivier Assayas for a film that is part ghost story, part drama, with a dash of crime thriller thrown in for good measure. In Personal Shopper , Stewart plays Maureen Cartwright, who is not only a personal shopper for a high-profile celebrity but also a spiritual medium. In between buying the latest fashions for her client, she spends her time trying to contact her recently deceased twin brother, who was also medium. Things get complicated as she starts receiving mysterious texts that dare her to take chances she normally wouldn’t take. This leads her to questioning not only her beliefs but everything she is doing with her life. As the days press on, she realizes she may never receive the sign that she is looking for from her brother and that a life change is in order. She learns that change can be painful and not everything may be as it seems.
Personal Shopper is very much a European independent film. It has very little action, is heavy on the dialog, and subtle in presentation. I enjoyed the cinematography throughout this film, which alternates between longer tracking shots and quick cuts. The drifting camera is fitting for the story, as the viewer is never given a solid impression of the film type. This makes it a very unpredictable story which is something that you do not see often in today’s cinema. Assayas keeps the viewer uncomfortable to put the audience in the shoes of Maureen, who is uncomfortable in nearly everything she does.
Kristen Stewart shines in her performance of Maureen, doing an excellent job portraying the many layers of the character and creating a connection with the audience. Viewers can feel her frustration with her job along with the anxiety that comes with change, the underlying fear of death, and the exhilaration when she dares to break some of the rules she has always followed. Kristen brings the right amount of emotion to each scene she is in, giving a vulnerable character who does not realize how strong of a person she can be.
This is an artistic film that does no hand-holding for the audience. Very few things are definitively answered as the movie plays out. There are multiple times during where the image fades to black between scenes which is meant to convey the passage of time. It also leaves holes for the viewer to think about and fill in.
I discussed one such scene near the end of the film with a fellow critic to try to fill in the blank. I believe that is was an intentional move on the part of the Assayas. His subtle presentation leaves room for interpretation and discussion after the viewing. Personal Shopper may be too subtle for some viewers and the slow burn of the story may leave others bored, but if you are a fan of Kristen Stewart’s independent film work and of the style of European films, then this is one you will definitely want to check out. While this is not my typical choice of film, I fully recognize the subtle artistry and appreciate the originality of its story. 8 out of 10.