‘Personal Shopper’ is unlike most supernatural films of the genre. It doesn’t resort to cheap shocks during its running time. It is comparable to a movie like ‘The Innocents’, as its focus is on character first, and in this instance the protagonist, Kristen Stewart’s character. There is no gore and very little special effects to be found here. Along with the narrative, the ending can also be interpreted as ambiguous, reminiscent of another superior thriller, Hidden, and undoubtedly one of the great thriller denouements in film history, by auteur Michael Haneke, made 12 years earlier. Mainstream filmgoers you’ve been warned, whereas art-house film lovers and fans of Hitchcock thrillers, there’s a lot to embrace here, so read on.
The film centre’s itself around the main character, Maureen Cartwright, who lives and works in Paris as a personal shopper for Kyra, played by Austrian actress Nora von Waldstätten, a high-profile celebrity. When Maureen isn’t driving her scooter to and from designer label boutiques, purchasing couture outfits for her boss, she focuses on her deceased twin brother Lewis, during her spare time. Like Maureen, he was a gifted medium, and so she attempts to make contact with him to ensure that everything is agreeable with him in the afterlife. To state any further developments would indeed spoil the plot.
Suffice to say this is yet another brilliant film from the great auteur filmmaker Olivier Assayas, whose run of exceptional films beginning with Summer Hours, back in 2008 continues. As with Hitchcock’s deft touch for superior thrillers, suspense and mood are key to the unfolding story, with several stunningly haunting set pieces guaranteed to unnerve the audience. The controlled yet deliberately slow-paced cinematography by Assayas regular, Yorick Le Saux is nothing short of spellbinding. As is the broodingly penned screenplay by Assayas himself that draws on the themes of love and identity, wrapped in a tantalising mystery.
Praise must also be extended to Kristen Stewart’s incredible performance, as every scene is required of her. You can almost feel her every emotion, as if you were standing along side of her, experiencing her every move. Stewart has become a formidable actress, and continues to grow in stature, since her early days with the much maligned ‘Twilight’ franchise, as a teenage vampire.
‘Personal Shopper’ should sit high on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list within the art-house fraternity. It’s a film that will leave a lasting impression on its audience and will more than likely warrant repeated viewings in the years to come. Particularly the film’s conclusion that will guarantee to have tongues wagging, long after the closing credits roll. ‘Personal Shopper’ is currently screening across Australia with a limited run at the independent cinemas.