A mashup of ghost story, exploration of grief, and psychological thriller, Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper ultimately achieves the word that doubles as its overall theme. It’s haunting and features a showcase performance for Kristen Stewart, who inhabits every nearly every frame of this experience.
She plays Maureen, who spends her hours picking up designer clothing and jewelry in Paris and other locales for her famous boss Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), a royal pain in the rear who seems to be famous for just being famous. Maureen doesn’t like her occupation, but she’s also occupied by another storyline that makes her stay. Her twin brother Lewis has recently died from a heart defect that she shares. Brother Lewis was a medium and she fancies herself as somewhat of one too. Maureen stays in his expansive old house as she waits for a sign from him that he promised would materialize.
There is supernatural activity, but it’s not exactly what Maureen anticipates. And just when you think Shopper might go full ghost tale, it switches into something else. Our central character begins receiving mysterious texts from an unknown caller that are flirty, threatening, and exhilarating to her. It provides Maureen with a bizarrely exciting way to think of something other than her miserable job and grief over Lewis.
An entire middle section of Personal Shopper is solely focused on these texts. I didn’t know until now that such activity could be as thrilling as it is here. Those three little dots cause Maureen and the audience to go through a range of emotions as we await this person’s (or is it a ghost?) next move.
Shopper is mostly unpredictable as it shifts genres with little warning. The thriller aspect contains some elements you may see coming as far as certain character’s motivations, but it’s always followed by the unexpected. The ending leaves room for interpretation and I found myself happily going through its possibilities in my head.
The picture wouldn’t succeed without Stewart’s fine performance. She has to carry it considering her constant screentime. If an actor can convincingly convey an array of feelings in a brief period of time when her primary acting partner is an iPhone, that’s good work. And Personal Shopper is stylish, spooky, and sexy.
***1/2 (out of four)