Who ya gonna call? K-Stew? Really?
Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a young twenty-something who’s still trying to find her place in the world, as well as stay healthy and above all else, wealthy. In Paris, she works as a personal shopper for a big-time celebrity, where she goes out and buys extravagant clothes, and often times, even getting the chance to try them on. Maureen loves it as it gives her a reason to escape from her real life, where she’s not only bored and a little frustrated, but still grieving. After all, her twin brother just recently died from the same genetic heart condition that she has, meaning that she may be joining him at any time, any place, for whatever reason. It’s definitely not the best thought to have in the back of her head while trying to navigate throughout the world, but it gets even worse when she starts to think that she’s seeing, hearing, and communicating with her dead brother. After all, she’s a medium and can apparently communicate with those in the afterlife, making her a reliable source, even if, at times, she herself doesn’t even know what’s real, what’s in her head, and what’s just a ghost playing tricks on her.
Writer/director Olivier Assayas pulls off something very tricky here in that he gives us a genuinely scary and rather tense ghost story, that also doubles as a smart, sometimes meaningful look at the afterlife and life as a whole. Do the two combined gel perfectly? Not really, but it’s very interesting to watch because we know that he’s trying something neat here and is going to work with it for as long as he humanly can, until he just about gives up and has to call it a day, much like all of us.
Also, it’s way better than Clouds of Sils Maria a movie that, to this day, I’ll still never fully get and/or understand all of the praise for.
But what’s odd about that movie and Personal Shopper is that, along with Kristen Stewart, they both feature the same look, feel and style; it’s a very hushed movie that sort of moves to the beat of its drum, which means that it’s not following conventional, or formula, nor is it really setting out to tell its story in the most original manner, either. You almost get the sense that Assayas, while not making it up as he rolls along, is still thinking of certain plot-points that could work, and possibly couldn’t. It’s why certain subplots involving a possible murder and a creepy suspect, sort of, in a way, fall flat – there’s a bit too much going on, without all that much rhyme or reason behind it all.
That said, the strength of Personal Shopper is that it allows us, the audience, to think way beyond what is your typical ghost story in which a soul caught in the afterlife, screws around with the only loved one alive who still remembers and loves them. Early on, it appears that the bulk of Personal Shopper is going to be all about said ghost – what with an absolutely cheesy and awful-looking CGI ghost running around the screen – but after awhile, Assayas seems to only hint at it later on. The only real jumps, thrills, and chills, seem to come from us not knowing what’s really going on, or leaving certain stuff to our imagination.
Take, for instance, a whole intense sequence involving, get this, texting.
And that’s it. For about ten minutes straight, it’s just Kristen Stewart having a conversation through text, with someone she doesn’t know, have an idea about, yet, can’t seem to stop talking to. It’s a pretty exciting sequence that’s shot, paced, and edited in such a way that it makes you feel like it’s going on forever, when in reality, it’s not anywhere near to taking up the balk of the movie. It’s a true sign that Assayas, even when he seems to be losing some sense of control, still knows ways to hone it all back in.
And also, the sequence itself, as well as the rest of the film, is much better off with the presence of Kristen Stewart who, with each and every role, seems to be getting better and better. Granted, she’s always been a solid actress, but I guess it takes Stewart to take small roles in indies like this, to not just remind people she can work well when the material’s there, but also make it seem like she’s not acting, either. Maureen, her character, is a very complex one that gets by on a lot without saying too much, which is why a good portion of her scenes, where she’s literally not talking, but instead, reacting, make it very compelling to watch.
Kristen Stewart, people. She’s the real deal. Even in movies that aren’t, but hey, still come sort of close.
Consensus: While not an altogether successful meld of horror and drama, Personal Shopper is still interesting and well-acted enough to get by on its slight originality.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire