PERSONAL SHOPPER (2017)
Movie Review by LL Soares
PERSONAL SHOPPER (2017) is the second time in a row that actress Kristen Stewart has collaborated with French director Olivier Assayas. The first time was in CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014), where Stewart played the personal assistant to a famous actress played by Juliette Binoche. This time, she plays the personal shopper to a famous actress (played by Nora von Waldstatten).
Stewart’s character this time, Maureen, is an American living in Paris who spends her days going to see shopowners and designers (and jewelers) to look at clothes and bring them to the apartment of the actress Kyra (von Waldstatten). She doesn’t particularly like her job, but it pays the rent and allows her to stay in France, but she’s a creative person and feels that she would have much better ways to use her time instead of traveling all over the city, transporting fancy clothes for a rich woman.
Maureen is also kind of a lost soul. Her twin brother, Lewis, recently died. He was living in France as well, in a big house where he mainly worked on carpentry and taught it to other people. He seems to have left a big impression on a lot of people’s lives, including his girlfried, Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz). Lara is the process of selling the big house she shared with Lewis, and some a couple who were friends with her and Lewis are in the process of buying it, but first they are having Maureen spend some time in the house, trying to contact Lewis’ spirit.
You see, before Lewis died, he made a pact with Maureen that if there’s an afterlife, he would contact her in some way after death, to let her know. Maureen is convinced that Lewis will make contact with her in the house he used to live in, but so far, she hasn’t had any luck.
Maureen and Lewis were mediums, sensitive to the spirit realm, throughout their lives. But this final test, if Lewis could contact her, would be the ultimate truth that what they’ve been experiencing is real.
Some strange things start happening to Maureen, starting with someone whose name is Unknown texting her on her phone, asking her intimate questions, and playing strange games with her. She spends an entire train trip back and forth between Paris and London interacting with this person. Also, she starts seeing weird things at Lewis’ former house, green lights, and eventually ghostly visions, which may or may not be connected to Lewis.
Somehow, Stewart is able to make even the most hum-drum, everyday routines in Maureen’s life interesting. There is something captivating about Stewart on screen.
Throughout, PERSONAL SHOPPER is a showcase for Kristen Stewart. She is the main focus of the film, and we follow her around through the more mundane aspects of her days, as well as the stranger incidents. By doing so, we get inside Maureen’s head. When something really bad eventually happens, threatening to unravel her life, we’ve already invested time and sympathy with Maureen, and eagerly wait to see what comes next.
Director Olivier Assayas has been working in film since 1979, when he made his first short. His first feature film, DISORDER, was in 1986. I’ve seen some of his films through the years, especially the art-house hits IRMA VEP (1996), starring the great Maggie Cheung, and DEMONLOVER (2002), starring Chloe Sevigny and Connie Nielsen. I’ve had mixed feelings about his work, but enjoyed PERSONAL SHOPPER more than I expected to.
Kristen Stewart has gotten a bad rap since the TWILIGHT movies, but I’ve found her career trajectory to be pretty interesting, as she’s parlayed the star power (and, probably, the financial security) she got from playing Bella Swan in TWILIGHT and its sequels to be more picky about the kinds of roles she takes, and the directors she works with. This is something Stewart’s TWILIGHT co-star, Robert Pattinson, has been doing as well. This has been resulting in a series of not-always-commercial films with a strong arthouse bent, and a chance to draw attention to filmmakers that might not get the same audience without them, such as Pattinson’s collaborations with director David Cronenberg, or Stewart’s here with Assayas. For every TWILIGHT (2008) or SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012), Stewart has made more prestigious fare like ON THE ROAD (2012), STILL ALICE (2014), and CERTAIN WOMAN (2016).
I hope Assayas and Stewart make more movies together. And I’m curious to see what other kinds of things Stewart does next, especially if she keeps choosing roles that allow her to grow as an actress. I give PERSONAL SHOPPER, three and a half knives.
© Copyright 2017 by LL Soares
Note: This is another movie that played film festivals in 2016, but didn’t get a theatrical release in the U.S. until 2017 (in March).
LL Soares gives PERSONAL SHOPPER ~three and a half knives.