To those moviegoers who are still living in 2005, can we let Kristen Stewart out of movie jail yet? Yes, doing the Twilight films may have not been the greatest choice, but we are looking at it from the outside. With terrible source material, an awful script and incredibly wooden acting, what it nevertheless managed to do was raise the profiles of its three lead actors: Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Pattinson has since gone on to work with David Cronenberg and Werner Herzog, while Lautner has gained a lot of weight and a penchant for appearing in bad Adam Sandler movies but Kristen Stewart has made the most headway of the three. Recently starring in the Jack Kerouac adaptation, On The Road, the well received Camp X-Ray and Kelly Reichart’s Certain Women, she also won the prestigious Caesar Award for her work in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds Of Sils Maria, making her the first North American actress to win that honor. It’s only natural that she’d want to jump into that director’s next project, Personal Shopper.
Definitely a different story than their last team up, this film is – at its heart – a ghost story. Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper for an international starlet living in Paris, France – but buying beautiful clothing and trying on expensive jewelry isn’t her only avenue of interest. Maureen also has the ability to see the dead and is hired as a clairvoyant to stay in a supposedly haunted house to document any sightings. The twist is that her employer is the ex-girlfriend of her deceased twin brother and the ghost she is looking for is his. Maureen starts to receive some cryptic messages from her brother but nothing concrete enough to get the answers she is seeking until something huge shakes up the other side of her professional life.
Personal Shopper is yet another amazing entry in the career of Assayas, using one of the staples of his past films in a new genre and that’s his incredible subtlety. A slow burn ghost story like this film turns up the creep factor with on-screen elements which mean that you have to be paying attention, especially in the final act. As much as the usual things from a movie like this will capture our imaginations, like the slamming of a door or the movement of an object, what is really scary is when an unseen entity is able to communicate through modern practices like this ghost may have done through text message in one sequence. It makes us wonder about the validity of the evidence presented because, really, it’s kind of terrifying no matter how you look at it.
For those who require a more hardcore and visual approach to their horror films, Personal Shopper may lack what they desire. Olivier Assayas designed this film to be a very quiet film rooted in reality, which makes the film all that much more unsettling. There’s no jump scares, blood or in your face moments as this skirts more of a dramatic line than heightening to any sort of crashing crescendo. I appreciate this film on its boldness in storytelling and not falling to any sort of common denominator as far as ghost stories go, both in Hollywood and internationally. Beyond that, it’s more and better in the evolution of Kristen Stewart, who could easily be on stage holding an Oscar one day soon… and yet, people will still be screaming about Twilight. 4.5/5