TIFF 2016 Review: Personal Shopper
Personal Shopper Review: Bold, Breathtaking, and Brilliant.
Personal Shopper is a hard film to review upon just one viewing. This 105-minute horror/drama is filled with underlining themes, metaphors, and questions that will most certainly be studied amongst cinephiles for years. Director Olivier Assayas teams back up with his Clouds of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart, for an ambitious take on the human psyche, happiness, grief, and closure in one of the most thought-provoking films of the year.
Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is the personal shopper for a high-powered German model/designer who demands an endless supply of clothes and accessories be produced and delivered to her. But Maureen has just suffered a personal trauma: her twin brother, Lewis, to whom she was intensely close with, has just passed away due to a congenital heart condition. She is also a medium and attempts to communicate with Lewis while spending nights at their childhood home in Paris, where he died.
Personal Shopper is a movie that demands your undivided attention from beginning to end. If you are looking for a typical jump scare horror film, you will be thoroughly disappointed. There are scenes of genuine scares that gave me goosebumps, but Personal Shopper reaches for something more than that. It’s a character study first, with the horror element taking a back seat for the big picture. What big picture you ask? Well, that’s up for you to see for yourself.
Kristen Stewart is outstanding as Maureen. Her performance is both nuanced and emotional, having grief all over face in every scene while trying to live a normal life. The scenes where Stewart is acting alone, attempting to connect with the dead, are exceptional. Assayas shoots long takes of Stewart, in dark, eerie setting, giving her the freedom to sink her teeth into these scenes. The camera never shy’s away, and the acting is never too showy. Scenes of what under a different direction/actress, would come across dull are packed with raw depth that makes for Stewarts best performance to date.
The film is a slow burn, suffering from some pacing issues in its opening act. It takes a good 20-30 minutes for the story to take effect. It is, however, a story that gets increasingly better with every twist, turns and surprises it throws at us. I found myself increasingly more invested by the minute, which is hard to do after a slow first act. As Maureen goes on this journey, layers begin to peel back and suspense increases gradually. A long, beautifully creepy tracking shot in a hotel comes to mind, like a scene where I could barely breathe.
Personal Shopper is not for everyone, and I can understand people’s frustration on how the film concludes. As I said, it’s hard to give this a review upon only one viewing, but as soon as it ended, I wanted to watch it again immediately. It’s a film that makes you question what you just watched the moment it ends. My screening was filled with theory’s that had everyone talking. The director himself told me he wasn’t exactly sure about it either and left it for interpretation. As it stands now, I found Personal Shopper to be an ambitious piece of filmmaking that is much more than meets the eye.
Personal Shopper opens on December 14th, 2016
An Oscar worthy performance from Kristen Stweart.
Terrific long takes of suspense and mystery.
A story that gets progressively more intriguing by the minute.
A slow first act.
Pacing issues throughout.