15 – 107mins – 2016
DESIRE FOR THE FORBIDDEN
Renowned by fans and detractors alike for her tight jaw and sullen gaze, former Twilight megastar and blossoming indie darling Kristen Equals Stewart is perfectly cast here as glum American spiritualist Maureen Cartwright. Moonlighting as a personal shopper for high-profile French fashionista Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) while she stays in Paris, Maureen is mourning the recent death of her twin brother, who she shares a heart malformation with.
“I’m waiting… I have to wait.”
Being a lackey for a glamourous ‘It’ girl is a bizarrely shallow – and purposefully ironic – choice of job for someone so disinterested in the material and attuned to the incorporeal as Maureen, but she perseveres despite her dislike of Kyra (who she rarely ever has face-to-face contact with) because she is waiting for a ‘sign’ from the spirit of her departed twin. While she waits, Maureen begins to receive a string of mysterious and teasing texts from an ambiguous and anonymous source.
Initially dismayed, Maureen begins to play along with the stranger’s SMS “games” as she is questioned and pushed out of her comfort zone by the vague messages on her phone, which dare her to shake up her staid existence by tackling what she fears. But things take a turn for the horrific when Kyra is murdered in her hotel room. Is Maureen’s covert contact the villain, or a voice from the other side…?
A French production set in Paris, the dialogue in Personal Shopper is, rather surprisingly, largely spoken in English. It is also a difficult film to classify. It has overt supernatural elements, but is neither scary or eerie enough to qualify as a horror. Likewise, the reveal of Kyra’s murderer is so obvious it’s hard to praise the plot as enigmatic enough to label it a thriller. Instead, Maureen’s dour, lonely existence lends writer/director Olivier Assayas’ blue-washed film the tone of a morbid drama.
Having missed out on its theatrical run, I had long been intrigued to check out Personal Shopper. My finger twice lingering over the ‘buy’ button on Amazon in the post-Christmas sales, but my patience was thankfully rewarded when it dropped on Netflix just two days ago! Sadly I was ultimately disappointed by the sparse, slow-burn narrative which happily waded in dour monotony; hinting at exciting and illuminating avenues but remaining as an intuitive and cathartic think piece for Assayas’ internalised psychological ponderings on grief, existence and the human soul.
CR@B’s Claw Score: