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Kristen Stewart gives an unexpected tour de force in “Personal Shopper” [MOVIE REVIEW]

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Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper. Courtesy of IFC Films.

by Morgan Rojas/Cinemacy.com

Next to her newly shaved head, Kristen Stewart’s indie film Personal Shopper is the latest buzz-worthy presentation coming from the multi-hyphenated actress/director/Chanel ambassador. Transforming into an emotionally complex fashion stylist who dabbles in connecting with other-world spirituality in the hopes of finding closure from her twin brother’s death, Stewart makes Personal Shopper an intriguing art-house thriller and further frees herself from her previous blockbuster identity by being known as an actress looking to attach herself to more daring work.

Stewart renews her indie darling status by re-teaming with French director Olivier Assayas, who she previously earned praise with starring in 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria. In this intimate psychological thriller, Stewart plays Maureen, an American living in Paris as a personal shopper for a local celebrity. The glitz and the glamour of this high-fashion life do not faze her (at first), as Maureen throws herself into the position as well as the extracurricular activity of looking for a sign from her deceased brother. Both born with the same heart defect, the siblings made a pact that whoever passed first would send the other a sign from the beyond.  Maureen is now adamant that she cannot leave the city her brother died in until she is confident he has made his presence known to her.

At first, Maureen brushes off the text messages from an Unknown number as just a prank or even inappropriate cyber stalking. What she did not expect was to be followed (haunted, if you will) by a presence she could not see or feel. As she becomes consumed by her phone and the anticipation of the next text, Maureen begins to unravel at the seams. Exposing her vulnerabilities brought on by her phone, she is pushed out of her comfort zone by the unfamiliar messenger, and finally caves by acting out her wildest fantasies. Wearing her client’s forbidden clothes and sleeping in her bed while she’s out of town are just the tip of the iceberg. It is only when Maureen stumbles upon a murder that she is forced to take an introspective look at herself and face her demons, once and for all.

The French filmmaker’s high fashion-meets-ghost story tale (think The Devil Wears Prada meets The Sixth Sense) proves to be a divisive watch (despite winning the Best Director award the Cannes Film Festival, as well as a nomination for the prestigious Palme d’Or– the honor ended up going to the British film I, Daniel Blake). Visually, the film is a nice balance between glitzy and gritty, but leaving the superficiality of style aside, Personal Shopper leaves much to be desired. It is one thing to engage an audience by forcing the viewer to be actively attentive, but more ambiguous-than-not storytelling that leaves the audience to derive their own meaning ultimately does a disservice to the film. Numerous early setups never pay off, and its ambitious mix of genre-blending feels tonally inconsistent as opposed to fluid. However, it is undeniable that Kristen Stewart is magnetic to watch onscreen. Essentially acting opposite herself, she commands the picture with a quiet strength that I would love to see more of in these daring yet artfully-cohesive films.

Although Personal Shopper feels incredulously unbelievable at times, it is an ambitious and daring work that feels fresh and new. Kristen Stewart manages to emerge from under the weight of this somewhat confusing script and makes this a film to check out if you’re curious enough.
Personal Shopper is rated R for some language, sexuality, nudity and a bloody violent image. 105 minutes. Now playing in select cities, including ArcLight Hollywood and the Landmark.


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