Personal Shopper is a classy psychological thriller with paranormal overtones. Features a mesmerising performance from Kristin Stewart.
As a ghost story of sorts, Personal Shopper is an unusual inclusion in the 2017 Perth Film Festival, but it sets itself apart from the run of the mill spook flick on a few counts. Firstly, while there are some creepy moments and paranormal manifestations, this is more psychological thriller than horror story. Director Olivier Assayas is less concerned with scaring the wits out of his viewers than delving into the nature of grief and its effects on the lead character, Maureen (Kristen Stewart). Then there is Kristen Stewart’s mesmerising performance, which is the most extraordinary aspect of the film.
She’s on screen almost the entire time and under the magnifying glass as an actor, yet thrives in her demanding role. And such is her presence and enigmatic quality that you can’t get enough of her. She’s stamped herself post-Twilight as one of the most original and exciting young talents in cinema today, and someone who refuses to stand still or stick to familiar territory. Such is the case again in Personal Shopper.
Maureen is an expat American in Paris who works as a personal shopper for a wealthy and mostly absent fashion celeb. Her twin brother Lewis has recently died of a congenital heart condition (which leaves her with a sword of Damacles hovering over her own head). As a medium and spiritualist, he had a pact with her that in the event of his demise he would make contact from the other side. Friends are due to move into his house, but Maureen insists on first spending some nights there in the hope that Lewis will make good on his promise.
There are some supernatural goings-on, but nothing that convinces Maureen of Lewis’ presence. For reasons that are unclear, she determines that the appearance of a ghostly apparition indicates the end of the spooky happenings and that the house is ready for occupation by the new tenants.
She then starts receiving SMS messages from an unidentified caller who seems to be watching her. Wondering whether it might be Lewis she responds.
It’s a measure of Assayas as a director that he uses the text messaging, which could so easily have become dull, to build tension and chart the development of a dangerous liaison which takes the film through to its conclusion. Thankfully, the resolution is both open-ended and satisfying.
Apparently the film polarised viewers at Cannes. I’m not sure why. It’s a classy effort, and worth the admission price for Stewart’s performance alone.
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