Review of Personal Shopper, by Ben Cherry. It’s showing in our cinema until Thursday 27 April.
Personal Shopper is a film that I had little knowledge of however I was intrigued by the premise and the film had generated a lot of buzz at last year’s Cannes film festival. Needless to say the film was nothing like I expected.
The film tells the story of Maureen (played by Kristen Stewart, who pretty much carries the film on her shoulders) who is a personal shopper for a high-profile fashion model. However, she is also a sceptical medium who believes she can contact ghosts and other supernatural beings. Maureen also has a twin, Lewis, who has recently passed away and her main reason for living and working in Paris is to get in contact with him from the ‘other side’. It is this combination of story-lines which makes this film a unique viewing experience.
It starts off very much like a horror film. Maureen wanders around her twin brother’s very old and creepy house in an attempt to contact him. There are plenty of strange noises in the night and it starts the audience off in quite an intense way. I was relieved when the story switched to the rather less intense fashion storyline.
It is a very leisurely paced film and it does take a while to get to the main crux of the storyline. Without giving too much away, Maureen does have an encounter with a supernatural entity. After this unnerving scene, she starts getting texts from an unknown number. Some of the content of the messages is disturbing and Maureen is effectively stalked via text. However Maureen is almost addicted to the messages and can’t resist replying to this unknown person.
Kristen Stewart is an actress who invokes polarizing opinions. Mainly thanks to the Twilight series. However she is brilliant in this film. As I mentioned earlier she really does carry this film and the other supporting characters don’t really make much of an impact. It is truly her film. Maureen is very complex and throughout the film she is dealing with the grief of losing someone as close as a twin brother. In some ways it feels like she is trying to get in contact with Lewis because she can’t let go of him and get on with her own life. She is also very lonely. To combat this loneliness she is pretty much glued to the technology she owns, primarily her phone. Throughout the story she is constantly on it, even if she is walking the streets of Paris. Her most meaningful and open relationship is ultimately with this unknown person messaging her all the time. She is hoping the messages are from her twin brother and it suggests she had a similar open relationship when he was alive.
The film tries, and mostly succeeds, in being many different genres all at once. The effect is surprisingly not jarring when it moves between scenes of horror, fashion and mystery. There are plenty of twists in the story which are effective; and I felt the scenes in Lewis’ old house particularly unnerving. There is a lot to recommend in this film, but it is Kristen Stewart’s performance that is the stand-out aspect here and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here.
Ben Cherry is a freelance writer living and working in Plymouth