“Personal Shopper” Is A Multi-Layered Independent Gem
After watching “Personal Shopper” — an erotic psychological thriller starring Kristen Stewart — it was obvious why Olivier Assayas won best director at the Cannes Film Festival. What he created is a complex, multi-layered story that aims to make you feel slightly uncomfortable but keeps you hooked until the very last frame of the movie. It also opens up a conversation about grief, loss, the afterlife, sex, and whether or not anything really truly matters in the end. No clear answers are given in this film so everything from here on out will be of personal opinion.
Maureen Cartwright (Stewart) is a personal shopper for a celebrity. She travels around and picks up the clothes and jewelry that her employer will wear to red carpet events and photo ops and drops them off at her place. She’s also in Paris because her twin brother recently died there from a genetic heart problem they both share and she’s desperate to make contact with him from the other side at the home he used to live in. Soon she begins receiving text messages from “Unknown”; an apparent all-knowing being that will not reveal their identity but influences Maureen to give in to some of her more basic desires. Everything begins to unravel once Maureen finds herself in the middle of a situation where a violent crime took place and she must work to find out who she’s been talking to while also trying to make contact with her brother.
Okay. Yeah. A lot of stuff to work out. Sorry. I got lost a little while typing that all out because there’s a lot of moving parts to this film. You would think with this many storylines going on at the same time, the film would get tangled up in itself and offer up a lot of options for entertainment but not be able to hit with any of them. That is not the case with “Personal Shopper” as Assayas gives you glimpses into the many parts of Maureen’s life but never lets one storyline ever take precedence over the others. Instead, every facet of this film works in a disjointed harmony with one another in order to explore complex theories and ideas while keeping the viewer entertained. This is the perfect representation of what’s possible with independent film; telling these stories that make the viewer think and allowing them to come up with their own answers for what’s actually happening.
Kristen Stewart takes on the responsibility of carrying this movie almost all by herself. While she does have interactions with other characters (her boyfriend Gary played by Ty Olwin and her brother’s lover played by Sigrid Bouaziz) most of the movie is following her around from shop to shop while she’s also reacting to the text messages she’s receiving from Unknown. Her actions and speech are quick-paced and it creates this uneasiness that raises the tension stakes in the film while causing the viewer to never get comfortable at any point. Even though you’re spending every moment with this character, there’s never a moment when you feel close to her or connected to her. It creates this voyeur experience that holds you at arm’s length — letting you in just enough to be able to potentially figure out what’s going on. Stewart’s portrayal of Maureen is an inspired one that shows off her acting abilities and really helps to sell the story as believable.
I will admit there were a couple fade-out scenes that felt odd to me — conversations ending abruptly in order to move to the next scene — but that’s such a small complaint for an otherwise brilliant film. I don’t believe this movie is for everyone. Definitely not for the casual moviegoer. But for people that love layered stories that will make you think and make you work for the answers you won’t even be sure are accurate, “Personal Shopper” is the movie you’re going to watch as soon as possible. At the very least, it will cause a conversation and that’s what art’s supposed to do.
In conclusion, “Personal Shopper” is a dramatic ghost story erotic thriller that is more concerned with telling an interesting story than it is making it palatable for every moviegoer. Even if you end up not liking the film, you’ll have to admit that it was different, that it was interesting, and that it’s completely original and exciting.