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  • Articles by Sonali

    Film review: Personal Shopper

    Personal Shopper, set in contemporary Paris is written and directed by Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria). Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, a personal assistant to her glamourous and demanding celebrity boss Kyra, and grieving for the loss of her twin brother Lewis who has recently died of a heart condition.

    From the outset the film appears to be a ghost story. Maureen has psychic abilities and is trying to make contact with his spirit. She’s waiting for a sign of the afterlife. We follow her as she walks around the beautifully decaying mansion where Lewis used to live. There’s no background music. Instead we hear the eerie sound of creaking floorboards. The wind rushing outside. A loud thud. We get a sense of inertia and numbness; she’s unable to move on with her life ( to Oman to meet her boyfriend Gary who's working there) without a signal from Lewis eventhough she appears to be busy, going from place to place. 

    Maureen‘s day job is to select and buy the latest designer outfits and the photographs of Kyra wearing these items also serve as ambient advertising for the luxury brands. We see Maureen going about her working day, shopping between Paris and London. This doesn’t seem too bad really. Maureen has good taste and instinctively knows what’s going to work. In fact she makes shopping look like an artform, but she’s bogged down by the vacuity of it all and Kyra is a nightmare. On her way to London her journey is punctuated by a phone text message conversation with a mysterious stranger. This scene drags on and the film gradually morphs into a (baffling) mystery thriller, although there seems to be a ghost or ‘ectoplasm’ following her around. 

    On the positive side, the film delivers an understated and offbeat view of our world today. Kristen Stewart does a good job of carrying the story, despite a flawed script, giving an engaging and mournful performance. Her character Maureen walks about wearing a bomber jacket looking glum (and gaunt) but this does seem apt considering her situation.  

    There are several plot holes (we’re not told why Lewis is in living in Paris in the first place). What’s left of the ghost angle becomes clichéd and faintly ridiculous. And the story is disjointed: is it a statement about grieving, consumerism, work, family or ghosts? Who knows? Oddly enough though, Personal Shopper remains subtly compelling throughout and the ending helps bring the loose strands together. The effect is mysterious, poignant and haunting.

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