By: Matt Prazak
In their follow up to Clouds of Sils Maria, Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart take on haunted houses and the fashion industry in Personal Shopper. Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper for an A-list celebrity. She also believes she can communicate with her dead brother though she has yet do so. Getting booed at Cannes, Personal Shopper is a divisive film that with patience eventually pays off with some eerie moments. Assayas is known for making films that accentuate the main character and this is another example as we delve deep into Maureen’s mind.
Kristen Stewart continues her hot streak with career best work in Personal Shopper. Showing a variety of emotion, Stewart plays a directionless woman who works for a starlight, similar to her role in Clouds of Sils Maria. Maureen’s vulnerability is shown early when she stays at the house of her dead brother, trying to make a connection to him. Maureen believes that she is a medium and capable of communicating with the other side.
After a string of supernatural events and an unknown phone number stalking her, Maureen starts to feel insecure and fears for her life. When Stewart’s character starts to receive text messages from an unknown number it goes from thrilling to tedious in a matter of a minutes. The cinematography is lush, the score is evocative and Assayas’s direction resembles the early work of Hitchcock. An eerie slow burn that teases but doesn’t always come full circle. Personal Shopper asks a lot of questions with very few answers, which could be seen as frustrating or satisfying depending on the viewer.
Personal Shopper isn’t always comprehensive when telling its ghost story, but the work from Assayas and Stewart make it worthwhile. The tense and taut depiction of France helps to give the film a moody atmosphere that heightens anxiety during its climax. At times a horror, Personal Shopper ends up being more of a character study into Maureen’s psyche, through grievance and self-discovery. The ending is tantalizing and will leave viewers scrambling to decipher what it all means. Sometimes lacking a spark, Assayas lets the viewer decide the finale by finishing it with ambiguousness. Personal Shopper relies on a great performance by Stewart and the imagination of its viewers.
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