Personal Shopper

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Olivier Assayas

Mar 09, 2017 Web Exclusive
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There’s a lot of waiting in director Olivier Assasyas new film, Personal Shopper. It’s explicitly stated in fact by Kristen Stewart’s character, the troubled, partly psychic expat Maureen Cartwright. She’s waiting for a sign from the other side from her deceased brother, Louis, a medium even more potent than she. Assayas creates a moody and reflective atmosphere to mirror Maureen’s uncertainty and aimlessness, yet what could be a powerful, Hitchcockian ghost story is lost in disconnected characters and an even more disjointed script.

The film starts out promisingly enough as Maureen is dropped off by Lara, her friend and Louis’ grieving girlfriend, to investigate a house for paranormal activity and ostensibly search for Louis. There’s some scares as Maureen interacts with spectral blob but the effects are more mediocre than special. The report Maureen then gives to a couple thinking to buy the house is both laughable and jarring, as if Stewart herself is having a hard time believing what she just said.

When Maureen isn’t desperately seeking Louis she works for Kyra, a self-important celebrity who cares very little for her personal shopper. The job seems cushy enough but is clearly soulless work and chides at Maureen’s sense of purpose. This could dovetail with her paranormal life but the two run parallel throughout the film, neither bolstering the other. In fact, what could be an endearing trait -- hating a vapid boss -- distracts from the the intrigue of the supernatural. Worse, it distances the audience from Maureen, who is frustratingly ineffectual. Maureen has a boyfriend as well, but the movie considers him just as Maureen does: an afterthought.

The dialogue, as previewed by Maureen’s stilted ghost report becomes more and more problematic and expository as the film drags on. The most egregious example is near the end, when Stewart meets Erwin, Lara’s new beau. Though the two just met they delve into deep, personal  conversation. It’s like the movie had become self-aware about its lack of meaningful explanation and was now trying to self-correct. This conversation pushes Maureen to an ending that is both simplistic and confusing at once, which is probably the most impressive part of this movie.

So, back to the waiting. In a better film this amount of waiting would be advantageous. Without relatability to Maureen however, there is no tension, no thrills. All the crouching in darkened houses, sneaking into luxury condos, and creeping into hotels rooms is wasted. Personal Shopper strives for a slick sheen on an old tale and while the look is there, the storytelling is not.   

www.ifcfilms.com/films/personal-shopper

Author rating: 5/10

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