Two years after the highly esteemed drama “Clouds of Sils Maria”, French writer/director Olivier Assayas tackles a psychological drama/thriller bolstered by crime and spiritualism.
Kristen Stewart is Maureen Cartwright, an American personal shopper based in Paris where she’s assisting Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), a high profile and super-busy celebrity. Her job, a dream for many of the common mortals, consists in traveling to European cities and pick up fancy clothes and jewelry that will be worn by her client at some party or event and then returned to the store.
Even with this painless, well-paid job that provides her a good quality of life, Maureen is not at peace with herself since her twin brother Louis has died from a heart malfunction. In truth, Maureen also suffers from the same medical condition and needs a routine examination every six months. She’s advised to avoid extreme emotions and physical strains.
This is not what bothers her, though, but the fact she can’t connect with the spirit of Louis, who was a very sensitive medium and should be manifesting his presence somehow by that time, as they had promised each other.
Fearless and determined, the disheartened Maureen keeps going back to the house where Louis died to spend the night and trying to establish contact. The house, placed in a remote location in the woods, is now abandoned, and strange happenings start to occur. Is it really Louis or other intrusive forces?
To increase her anxiety, she starts getting mysterious texts on her phone from an unknown sender who seems to know all her moves.
This particular aspect of the story is easily guessable and didn’t really pique my curiosity. A harrowing crime, plus the cat-and-mouse play that results from it, is what will turn it exciting.
The film was never creepy during the ghostly appearances, but Assayas’ vision caught my attention from start to finish, especially through the emotional struggles of this seductive woman who also allows herself to be seduced by the forbidden. He had a perfect ally in Stewart, who gave an out-of-this-world performance, shaping a character that needs to find how to deal with grief and, at the same time, accept what she can’t control.
Even if not as brilliant as “Clouds of Sils Maria”, “Personal Shopper” is a worthy tale about letting things go in life, in order to live it freely.
ABOUT FILIPE FREITAS
Filipe Freitas is a New York-based Portuguese film critic and jazz music writer.
He’s the founder and lead critic of Always Good Movies film website, launched in 2010, and co-founder of JazzTrail, site that explores the vibrant NY Jazz Scene. He has a background in electrical engineering, a field he quit in 2012 to follow his dreams.