Personal Shopper (2016)

A charismatic, nuanced turn by Kristen Stewart holds together an improbable yet strangely compelling mixture of fashion and supernatural horror in Oliver Assayas’s Personal Shopper.

Is there anyone there?

by Alexa Dalby

Personal Shopper

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Kristen Stewart is Maureen, dressed like a tomboy yet working as a high-fashion personal shopper, sourcing incredibly expensive designer clothes and accessories for an unreasonably demanding client Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Maureen is living in Paris, waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. She is a medium, as he was, and he pledged to contact her from the other side. Since he died three months ago, so far the signs have been inconclusive – a malevolent apparition spewing ectoplasm in the house he lived in, a few moving objects – and she’s alert for more. She starts to receive mysterious text messages from someone who will not reveal their identity but seems to know her well. The messages taunt her into behaviour which she knows to be forbidden.

Personal Shopper defies neat genre classification. Maureen weaves through Parisian traffic on her scooter, takes the Eurostar to London and back while carrying on a needling text conversation that builds in suspense over the course of her journey, she Skypes her computer-consultant boyfriend in Oman, tries on some of her employer’s more extreme designer dresses while making herself illicitly at home in her luxury flat – and all the time she is close to the edge, searching for that sign. And indeed there are hints and clues that are tied up eventually in a strange coda of explanations and manifestations. But does Maureen herself see them or does she find a freedom of a different kind?

Personal Shopper creates a unique zone of ultimate cool. It’s mystifying, intriguing, even irritating. Onscreen all the time, Kristen Stewart is absorbing to watch in her character of Maureen, making an otherwise unreasonable storyline compelling.

Personal Shopper premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is released on 17 March 2017 in the UK.

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