Thursday, March 30, 2017

Movie Review #588: "Personal Shopper" (2017)

Director: Olivier Assayas
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
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Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a personal shopper for a unpleasant supermodel. She hates her job, but keeps it because she is also waiting in Paris for a very specific reason. Maureen is also a medium waiting to be contacted by her deceased twin brother to show proof of life beyond death. 

"Personal Shopper" is written and directed by Oliver Assayas. It stars Kristen Stewart as Maureen Cartwright, a reluctant personal shopper to a high maintenance, demanding supermodel. Maureen is also a spiritual medium waiting for contact from her deceased twin brother, who died young from a congenital condition in Paris. This movie is part character sketch about a young woman dealing with her grief, part ghost story about her aforementioned abilities as a spiritual medium, and part suspense thriller mystery. It is mostly original in this sense, but it is all over the place and doesn't seem to know which direction it wants to go in or what genre it truly wants to be. Assayas and Stewart have worked together before on the film called "Clouds of Sils Maria," which we didn't realize he directed. As soon as "Personal Shopper" started, we were called back to the time when we watched "Maria" in the theater because this film could be its spiritual sequel, no pun intended. They both have the same feel, similar plots, pacing, type of acting, style of writing, and overall vibe.

The entire thing hinges a lot on Stewart and her performance, but the role she is playing isn't much different from anything she's done in the past. This will either be a really good thing if you've loved her previous work, or a terrible thing if you hate her style. She plays similar characters in everything, people who are a bit dower and self-serious. They often feel like they have an edgy attitude, that she's always too cool for whatever it is they are doing, but almost always has an underlying sense of self-doubt. This is neither a bad thing nor a good thing for us as we've loved her elsewhere playing this role, but here, though her performance is good, it's noticeable that there's a lack of focus and she's trying her best to make it work. There are a few other people in this film like Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, and Nora van Waldst├Ątten, but they only have fleeting moments of screen time and really this entire film hinges on Stewart, who has found her niche doing indie movies.

There are glimmers of what could be a really intricate, interesting, solid movie here and there, especially in terms of the supernatural aspects. There are some ghostly occurrences that build tension briefly, but then kind of trail off and become a footnote until they are convenient. In the mystery thriller story line, there is brief intrigue as Maureen gets some mysterious text messages from an unknown person or entity. While we are interested to find out who or what is messaging her (even though we called it), it feels like it's building towards something super compelling, but is dropped by the wayside in lieu of something that feels very basic that isn't drastic or enticing. As for the rest of the story, it's a rather mundane account of a woman who drives around running errands buying clothes for her boss, who she seems to hate, packing up and down the stairs of her brother's old spooky house looking for any sign that he might be trying to contact her from the great beyond. This lack of focus really hurts the narrative and its pacing. For as many interesting moments as there are in the film, there are just as many if not more moments that are just downright dull. Though we managed to stay awake, we can't say the same for at least three other audience members who fell asleep and were audibly snoring for large portions of the film.

Despite the early critical acclaim this received while on the festival circuit, "Personal Shopper" winds up being a disappointment despite a fine performance from Kristen Stewart. Ultimately, we found this rather forgettable despite what it tries to say about grief and mystery.


My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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