Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou Graïa, Nora Von Waldstätten, Benjamin Biolay, Audrey Bonnet, Pascal Rambert
Written by: Olivier Assayas
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
MPAA Rating: R for some language, sexuality, nudity and a bloody violent image
Language: English/French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 105
Date: 03/10/2017

Personal Shopper (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Working for the second time with French director Olivier Assayas, Kristen Stewart gives a superb performance in this mysterious, compelling story, balanced cleverly between the known and the unknown.

In Personal Shopper, Maureen Cartwright (Kristen Stewart) is in Paris, paying the rent by working as a personal shopper for a monstrous, conceited supermodel. But in reality, she is a medium, whose twin brother Lewis shared her gift and who died of a heart condition — a condition that Maureen also has. She hopes that, because of their connection her brother will send a sign, and since Paris is where he died, that is where Maureen waits.

While running an errand collecting dresses and jewelry in London, she receives a mysterious text. Could it be some unknown prankster, or could it be her brother? Or, worse, could it be some other malevolent ghost from the spirit realm?

Following their work on the excellent, Cesar Award-winning Clouds of Sils Maria, the director/actress team re-creates some of the same territory, the world of elite celebrities, and the regular people that work for them. But Personal Shopper steps directly into the supernatural as well, treating it not as a jump-scare gimmick, but simply as a reality.

Assayas (Irma Vep, Summer Hours), whose career has hardly followed any kind of conventional path, successfully tells his story in a most unusual way, with Stewart frequently onscreen alone, yet still creating a tension between a professional exterior and an uncertain interior. A long sequence with her simply texting should have been a bore, but it's riveting.

Meanwhile, the ghost sequences do not follow any kind of traditional genre rules, and, notably, the main character never even sees them. This is a highly uncommon movie, but for bold viewers, it's a bracing, entrancing experience.

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