Kristen Stewart no longer yearns for vampires who glisten in the pale moonlight. It’s the smartest career move she has ever made. Instead of seeking big-budget films in her post-Twilight career, Stewart starting challenging herself but it never really seemed to pay off. Forever, in our minds, she was the expressionless girl, seemingly distant from the story on the screen.
Last year, she was on Oscar’s radar for her performance in Olivier Assayas’ The Clouds of Sils Maria for her impressive performance. She has teamed up with Assayas again in Personal Shopper and Stewart continues to demand our attention. Furthermore, she demands our respect and, most importantly, she has earned it.
Personal Shopper is a weird film – a kaleidoscope of varying tones that beg for disaster. Anchored by Stewart’s performance, Personal Shopper is mesmerizing, despite all the signs pointing to the fact that it shouldn’t work as a coherent film. The story centers on Maureen (Stewart), who is a personal shopper in France for a spoiled super star named Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) and spends days sifting through designer gowns and accessories for her boss. She has very little interest in this job but it pays the bills.
There’s no real segue to describe the rest of the plot, which focuses on Maureen being a medium. Her twin brother passed away from heart disease and she makes several attempts to connect with him.One day, she starts receiving strange text messages from an unidentified number. Could it be her brother Lewis? Has she finally made contact?
None of the description above makes the case for a good film but Assayas finds an even pace and smooth tonal transitions, which make for a strong film. The ghost story aspect, as outlandish as it may seem, is eerily effective in mood and atmosphere and examining how people handle loss.
Assayas wouldn’t take the credit, however. Before the screening at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, Assayas introduced the film and only spoke of Stewart. He sang her praises and felt weird that she wasn’t next to him to present the film. He even referred to her as a co-director. Forever a subject of tabloid headlines, it almost felt like Stewart would forever be a punchline. Last year she opened our eyes with The Clouds of Sils Maria and continues to flex her bona fides. Assayas and Stewart are a new perfect pairing.
Personal Shopper is not perfect – Assayas has trouble ending the film and misses the chance to conclude on a perfect note – but it’s a challenge that we are not often rewarded with as moviegoers. When the film begins its theatrical release, give it a chance.