I’ll be honest straight off the bat: I’ve never had good experiences with arthouse films. They sometimes lack the subtlety in trying to send a message to their audience, almost giving it the feel of a Matrix Revolutions, with awkward scenes that seem to dwell too long on a closeup just to set up an ’emotional scene’.
However, Personal Shopper was a… surprising entry that intrigued me by its plot that failed horribly when it came to execution, with its only saving grace being Kristen Stewart’s performance in the film.
Disclaimer: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Kristen Stewart’s character, Maureen, is seen driving up to an old house with another woman and stays in it for the night, waking up after claiming to feel an otherworldly presence before it disappears while chasing after it while calling out for “Lewis”. She is unable to catch up to it and crashes on a couch.
In the morning, her friend, Lara, returns and asks her if she saw anything. Maureen answers that she felt a presence but she still wants to “make contact”.
Rating: 8/10. It is a strong start to the film, as it tries to introduce this otherworldly aspect to the audience. It was done exceptionally well because it was intriguing and keeps the audience guessing. We start to ask “who is Lewis?” and “is she able to talk to the dead?” and that’s an interesting way to start a film.
Maureen, as a character, is a very interesting one on the surface.
1) We learn that Lewis is her twin brother who passed away recently and was a medium when he was still alive. Maureen is back to make contact with Lewis as they promise to leave each other a ‘sign’. We are able to sense her frustration when she cannot find it and when she vents to her employer’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend and whenever she confronts the presences she feels.
2) She is also seen to be someone that likes to toy around with danger. Perhaps it was the loneliness being in Paris looking for her brother, or the frustration of working for her employer, a fashionista named Kyra. And she seems to want to try out Kyra’s dresses although she has fears of doing so. It’s quite interesting to see her play this character that isn’t restricted by the plot and in doing so, feels quite human and we can relate to her.
Rating: 5/10. Wew, Personal Shopper really lets Kristen Stewart play a well-written character. I do have to mention that Personal Shopper is my first film seeing Kristen Stewart in a starring role outside of the Twilight films and it was refreshing to see her in a film that allowed her to have a greater range of character.
However, her supporting cast doesn’t do much to make her performance stand out and that’s where the film suffers.
It’s not hard to applaud Stewart’s acting here when everyone else barely does anything interesting, which confused me. Why isn’t Lewis’ ex-wife more interesting? Why isn’t Kyra, the supposed “monster of an employer”, showing more of her character and making Maureen hate her job? All that gets left behind in favor of more exposition and the discovery of ghosts in the real world, explored using videos that Maureen watches during the film.
Sigh. If only the other characters were more fleshed out with stronger character motivations and/or development, this film would be a lot more interesting.
The plot revolves around Maureen’s search for her brother’s signs from beyond the grave to let him prove the afterlife exists, with the subplot of her also being a fashion icon’s personal shopper. It is implied she encounters otherworldly presences throughout the film such as an unknown number starting to text Maureen and presences are felt in the background.
1. The very mysterious number that texts her that keeps you wondering if it was a ghost or a person that’s speaking to her.
2. The frustration and envy Maureen has working for Kyra, which leads to a scene where she tries on Kyra’s clothes and shoes, although it has been stated Kyra forbids her to do so.
1. PLOT HOLES everywhere! For example, the text messages from the ‘unknown number’ was much too fast, sent to Maureen at inhuman speeds, which kind of ruins the reveal later on.
2. Kyra’s death later in the film was not explored. At all. It feels shoehorned in to create a tense scene but fails to capture any from me.
3. The ‘ghosts’ throughout the film were either badly done CGI or plain invisible. The scene where the doors/elevators open and close without anyone walking through them was initially cool but drawn out and kind of dumb after a while.
Rating: 2/10. Plot started out strong with the introduction but seemed to lose its way halfway through the film with glaring plot holes (text messages from unknown were too fast so it had to be a ghost?), extremely bad CGI ghosts that look like they were stolen from the 2016 Ghostbusters remake, and the confusing plot narrative.
So many instances in the film went from ‘this is interesting’ to ‘wait, what?’ because of how many times the film poorly portrays the emotions in the scenes and kind of make it laughable.
Sigh, this film had so much potential. The idea of a character who lost a loved one and seeks a sign from them while working overseas was interesting. I admit I got intrigued when I heard what the film was about but I got sorely disappointed.
The film is an art house film that gave me horrible flashbacks to Matrix Revolutions – another film that had great ideas but lacks subtlety in its symbolism, etc. Furthermore, Personal Shopper fails to make use of every part of their plot to tell a coherent story, sometimes cutting a scene at a strange point (poor editing?) and does not use its entire cast effectively.
But would I recommend the film? Maybe if you’re a huge Kristen Stewart fan; this is a treat as she really demonstrates interesting traits as Maureen and fleshes her character out well. Even then, Stewart is in American Alpha, a film that seems to be a lot more interesting though so it’s really hard to defend the film. It was a mediocre film that tries to marry the supernatural with drama and forgets to be a captivating movie in the process unfortunately. Until next time!