Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas deliver something you haven’t seen before
Another ghost story is not something the cinema world is in need of right now. The Paranormal Activity franchise has killed the genre, put it in a coffin and nailed the door shut forever burying it six feet under the ground. For director Olivier Assayas to dig it back up, there needs to be a fresh idea there. Not only is Personal Shopper a bright idea, its plethora of genres makes this a unique experience.
The plot is extremely straightforward. Maureen (Kristen Stewart) has moved to Paris to help her grieve the recent death of her brother. She works as a personal shopper for a star, and in her spare time, she roams her brother’s house for signs from the spiritual world. Stemming from their pact that the first person to die would try to contact the other person, she desperately tries to cope with his lost. Thing takes a turn when Maureen starts receiving text messages from an unknown source that get weirder and weirder.
What would be another movie’s flaw is Personal Shopper‘s greatest strength. It changes from many different genres going from a drama to a psychosexual thriller to a supernatural-horror ghost movie. Olivier Assayas’ direction makes it fit almost all the time. Using old school fade to black surprisingly fits with the film’s style and it makes the various tonal shifts less jarring. It’s something other movies have tried yet few succeed to the extent of Personal Shopper.
Kristen Stewarts proves once again that her emotionless style acting that made her infamous died along with Twilight a long time ago. Here, she doesn’t shy away from various emotions. The change of genres throughout Personal Shopper gives her the chance to showcase her range as an actress. She goes from a grieving sister to a paranoid victim. It’s great to see Stewart shine in a movie that greatly benefits from her.
The ambiguous nature surrounding Personal Shopper is a bold move from Assayas. His passion to explore the gray area of the spiritual world, as well as grief, is a risky move. His ambitions sometimes get in the way of the story. Maureen’s text messages feel a bit out of place compare to the bigger story. It succeeds in that it explores Assayas’s self-identity, but it doesn’t ultimately work in the movie’s story.
Overall, Personal Shopper‘s ambitions are what ultimately makes it such a unique film. Its various tonal shifts are more intriguing than annoying while Kristen Stewart helps elevate the more jarring parts of the story. Don’t let the boos at Cannes fool you, Personal Shopper is a story you surely haven’t seen before and it’s a truly fantastic film.
Personal Shopper was released March 24th in Canada and the US.