Director: Oliver Assayas
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz
Personal Shopper is a difficult film to explain in words, as it is many things at once to communicate a central idea. In short, it is about guilt, loss, and ultimately death. Kristen Stewart stars as Maureen, a personal shopper for a famous supermodel, as she is in the midst of trying to reconnect with the spirit of her dead twin. Personal Shopper first gained notoriety when it was booed at Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and has ridden that controversy right up to its release, and it’s not hard to see why the film is so divisive. It uses the uncomfortable tension of threat where you cannot see it as the driving force of atmosphere. It’s dark and uncomfortable and if you give it a chance, you may find a fantastic, albeit underrated, horror film.
The film’s greatest aspect is its screenplay. The story plays out as a mystery and treats the views as the detective. You are gradually presented with all the key elements of the plot and are expected to put them together and fill in the blanks. Very little is laid out to the viewer with exposition, leaving lots of room for storytelling through visuals as well as dialogue. The dialogue also seems so natural, leaving room for the viewer to read between the lines and figure out what is really happening. This all lends itself to the incredible tension that is maintained because you never know what a danger to Maureen is and what isn’t. This becomes ever apparent as just texts on her phone make you sweat through your shirt. Thankfully, the film answers all the important questions and has an ending that ties up all the loose knots but is still ambiguous enough that plenty is left for interpretation.
The editing is also fantastic and really helps to accentuate Stewart’s performance. Using a lot of French New Wave style jump cuts creates a sense of unease that permeates throughout the story. Even when the pace increases and the tension is lowered, you are always left unsure of what will happen next.
While all the acting is great, this is essentially Stewart’s movie, as all the other characters take a back seat her. This puts a lot of pressure on Stewart to remain enthralling without outshining the character, thankfully she does an excellent job here. Many people forget what an excellent actor she is because of her role in Twilight; those people need only to see this film to be reminded.
There are some minor issues, sometimes the tension is relieved too soon and there are some scenes that move a little slow for this writers liking, but overall Personal Shopper is a fantastic film, just stick with it until the end, you will not be disappointed.