Personal Shopper is the latest movie from acclaimed art-house director Olivier Assayas, who won accolades on the indie film circuit for his last movie Clouds of Sils Maria. Starring Kristen Stewart, of Twilight and Snow White and the Huntsman fame, Personal Shopper introduces the character of Maureen Cartwright (played by Stewart) a young American woman who comes to Paris following the death of her twin brother, who was living there. Maureen and her brother were both born with a genetic heart condition, which he recently died from. Both were avid believers in the afterlife and had made a pact that whoever died first would linger to communicate with their sibling from the other side. Maureen chooses to stay in Paris for a while, in hopes of receiving messages from her brother’s ghost, and takes a job working as a personal shopper for Kyra, an international fashion model who is constantly traveling and on the go. Feeling isolated and lonely, Maureen starts to receive text messages from an unknown source that seems very aware of who she is and what she is doing at all times.
Personal Shopper is yet another art house movie that gives you a setup that makes you think you’re watching a linear storyline and then abruptly ends without a clear resolution, leaving it up to you to interpret the meaning of what you’ve seen. It’s a bit like using film as a painting, presenting a series of vignettes that reflect on different themes and letting you decide what it is you take away from it. If you’re a person who enjoys that sort of thing, seeing movies that challenge you to draw your own meaning from them, you may find this brilliant. If, like me, you’re someone that thinks movies should tell a coherent story, then you’re likely to be disappointed.
I honestly don’t understand why so many film critics and art house fans are so quick to fall over themselves to praise slow moving movies that “challenge” their audiences by making them come up with their own meaning instead of making films that tell a straightforward story. Wasn’t Shakespeare’s genius in his ability to create a compelling narrative that worked on multiple levels? Why is it considered such a virtue to make films that only make sense in the minds of their creators? To me it seems like lazy and self-indulgent filmmaking, but what do I know?
Movies like this always seem to garner tremendous critical praise, so obviously there’s a core audience out there that will like it. For myself, someone looking for a more straightforward mystery/suspense ghost story, this is pretty much of a let down. There are some images that lingered with me afterward, and you have to give props when an actress of Stewart’s stature has the courage to do erotic nude scenes in a low budget indie, but on the whole this simply isn’t the sort of film that I would recommend.
Rating: 2 and a half stars