PERSONAL SHOPPER (France/TBC/105mins)
Directed by Olivier Assayas. Starring Kristen Stewart, Nora von Waldstätten, Anders Danielsen Lie, Lars Eidinger, Ty Olwin
THE PLOT: Living in Paris, Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a personal shopper for the diva-ish actress Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Although she shops for a living by day, she has a stronger reason to remain in Paris; her twin brother Lewis died only months earlier and she is waiting for him to fulfil their pact; whomever dies first will contact the other from beyond the grave, being that they are both mediums. When Maureen returns to a house where she believes Lewis’ spirit to be, she unwittingly contacts a spirit unknown to her, and sets of a startling and violent chain of events.
THE VERDICT: Olivier Assayas returns to Cannes for the first time since his 2014 film ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’. ‘Personal Shopper’ is another film that attempts to examine life on an existential level, but where Cloud of Sils Maria soared, ‘Personal Shopper’ descends into silliness and mediocrity.
Kristen Stewart leads the cast as Maureen, and never quite manages to get a handle on the character. It is incredibly obvious that the personal details of this character belong to Stewart herself, so it is difficult to believe the journey that this character goes on. Since Stewart is the actress left to carry the film, this is a major problem. The rest of the cast features Nora von Waldstätten, Anders Danielsen Lie, Lars Eidinger and Ty Olwin, who have small supporting roles.
Olivier Assayas’ screenplay places Maureen at the heart of a ghost story that tries its best to be complicated and misdirect the audience, but the entire plot is obvious as soon as things get going. Maureen is egged on to do ridiculous things such as try on her boss’ clothes by someone texting her from an unknown number, which either may or may not be the ghost that her presence disturbed. The rest of the time, Maureen drifts around beautiful boutiques in Paris and London, trying to find clothes for Kyra to wear, or engaging in existential discussions via text or with complete strangers. There are times when it seems the film is going down a predictable but coherent route, but instead it shies away for something familiar that is left unresolved.
As director, Assayas never quite manages to get the great performances from his cast that he is looking for, meaning the characters never quite feel real. As well as this, a lot of the film is conveyed through text message, and looking at someone else’s texts is not only lazy storytelling, but dull. There are moments of action and curiosity throughout the film, but these quickly lead back to mundanity, as Assayas tries to make ‘Personal Shopper’ an existential ghostly thriller, but only succeeds in making something that is not one thing nor another.
In all ‘Personal Shopper’ is a mess. Kristen Stewart never quite makes the character believable and the entire cast is let down by a muddled screenplay that seems unsure about what it is trying to do. The costumes are great, but the ghost story never quite gets off the ground and the entire film asks more questions than it seems to have the answers for.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - Personal Shopper
Review by Brogen Hayes
1.0Dull and silly
  • Valley girl

    The writer of this review is clearly one of the minority to whom the true power and art of PS is utterly lost. If this piece is read alongside the myriad of other reviews, it is clear to see what he’s missing. Stewart is praised and applauded for her performance and received a 5 minute standing ovation at the Cannes premier on Tuesday evening. The film is daring and genre-breaking and it’s subtleties are lost on the more pedestrian of film critics…as is the case here. Worth reading the other reviews for a truer critique of Personal Shopper!

  • filmbuff2011

    Re-teaming with his Clouds Of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart, Olivier Assayas has fashioned an alternative ghost story with Personal Shopper. However, it’s a film that never really decides what it’s meant to be, making it an uncertain proposition for filmgoers.

    Maureen (Stewart) is a young American woman in Paris. She works as a personal shopper for high-profile fashion model Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten). She buys clothes and jewellery for Kyra because she’s unable to have a normal life and do so herself (hmm…). There’s another reason Maureen is in Paris. Her twin brother Louis died earlier and she’s waiting for a sign from him. Maureen believes in the afterlife and they made a pact together that the first to die would pass on a sign. Maureen witnesses an apparition in the house where Louis died, but it’s not the spirit of her dead brother. Not long after, she gets taunting texts from an unknown person who seems to be tracking her every move. Is Louis texting her from beyond the grave? Or is there something more sinister at work?

    Assayas co-shared the Best Director prize at Cannes last year with Cristian Mungiu for his upcoming film Graduation. That might be a bit hard to believe once you’ve tried to digest the unlikely events of Personal Shopper. Assayas’ script is obviously trying to be smart in telling an alternative take on the ghost story, making it more artistic and using less creaky-doors-and-bumps-in-the-night cliches. Unfortunately, the film never really gels as a whole, suffering from structural problems from the outset. There are awkward shifts in tone which go unexplained, with the drama sitting uneasily beside the supernatural. They never make for happy bedfellows with this film, failing to connect with each other. That’s an important fact to consider among the wispy apparitions, moving objects and the mundane reality of Maureen’s existence. The fashion world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it seems.

    A good part of the film revolves around a stranger texting Maureen. This is not visually interesting or even thrilling, constantly moving into close-ups of an iPhone screen. Most films now present texts onscreen, so it’s a curious choice for Assayas to go down this route. When the time comes to reveal the stranger, Assayas waves an indifferent hand and dismisses that plot motivation in one quick scene. Looking queasy and worried for most of the film, Stewart is the only real reason to watch Personal Shopper. She commands the screen and gives a complex performance, which manages to root the character in solid ground even if the story isn’t. Continuing to make smart career choices in her post-Twilight years, Stewart is proving to be an actress of note. No wonder the French love her so much. Personal Shopper has a few good moments and a strong performance from Stewart, but it’s a film that doesn’t know what to say about the afterlife. A horror film that has very little horror, a drama that isn’t very dramatic, Personal Shopper will leave you short-changed. **