Director Olivier Assayas returns with Kirsten Stewart in tow after last years’ elegantly wafting take on waning fame and power. 2015 NZIFF entry The Clouds of Sils Maria chronicled how some people will do anything to claw back former glory in the face of adversity. Stewart here also played an assistant to a somewhat megalomaniac female, Binoche’s fragile Maria, but is more subdued in Personal Shopper. Her relationship with pop fashionista Kyra is distant this relational vacancy is filled by the spectre of her dead twin brother, Lewis, and the occasional texter.
It’s refreshing to see such a young actress branching out into less commercial fare. After kicking off the Twilight series, Stewart, like Efron, Patterson and Timberlake – who have all branched out successfully, finds herself surrounded by foreign actors – yet proves she can still bring vigour and skill to something more low-key. It’s hard to tell whether scripting or acting are at fault for some flatly delivered lines and an elongated text message parlay that capitalises on Stewart’s acting by focusing solely on her thumb and forefinger. Her twitchy Maureen aches to be someone other than her, lonesome wafer-thin self epitomized perfectly by her face which reveals a particular hate for scootering through the Parisian streets.
Art imitating an even sadder life, banged up abroad and the supernatural all amalgamate into a delicious tale of how to bypass grief despite barely existing within a menial job. Part Conjuring, especially in the final scenes, part typical foreign drama, part Ghostbusters, it’s safe to say Personal Shopper suffers from a somewhat confused identity. Stewart’s performance, combined with Assayas’ specific camerawork, make Personal Shopper a personal triumph that fails to find a home in any particular genre.
Reviewed by Nic Brookland
Personal Shopper is screening as part of the 2016 NZIFF with screenings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and elsewhere.