Film

Review: You’ll Either Totally Love Or Totally Hate ‘Personal Shopper’

"I didn’t know that all I wanted in a movie was Kristen Stewart motorbiking around Paris buying expensive designer fashions for rich people while texting a ghost who may or may not be her dead twin brother."

This is a review from the 2016 Melbourne International Film Festival. Check out more of our coverage here.

I didn’t know that all I wanted in a movie was Kristen Stewart motorbiking around Paris buying expensive designer fashions for rich people while texting a ghost who may or may not be her dead twin brother. Despite how silly that premise may sound, it works well in this latest film in Stewart’s world domination of the fringes of arthouse cinema. Personal Shopper is excellent.

Much like the paranormal forces that thrust the narrative into unexpected directions, the latest collaboration between Stewart and French director Olivier Assayas — last seen together delivering the exceptional Clouds of Sils Maria for which Stewart became the first American woman to ever win a French Oscar — is a complicated and mysterious beast. It’s the pure definition of a love-it-or-hate-it film.

Here, Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper for a famous actress whom she almost never actually sees. Is she real? Maybe. Her twin brother has recently died and so Maureen is attempting to find proof that he is contacting her from the other side. Expecting his presence (he was a medium after all), what she discovers is something else entirely and she soon begins to receive anonymous texts that suggest somebody — or something — is not only following her every move but also maybe attempting to frame her for a crime.

Like I said, it sounds silly.

GHOST TEXTS???!!!!?

Personal Shopper feels like the kind of international arthouse titles that 1980s audiences flocked to and talked over at dinner parties long before the industry was globalised. In the same vein as Jean-Jacques Beineix’s 1981 youthful new-wave thriller Diva, it has a woozy charm that allows the audience to revel in an exotic world of international style, sex, and simmering mystery. It’s sumptuous to look at, too, particularly for fashion hounds who will no doubt respond to the allure of Chanel. But that isn’t to suggest the movie isn’t an intellectual one. Rather, it’s full of intense longing and desperation — the need to connect between souls without the physical means to do so.

Though the film was initially booed by audiences, Assayas won the Best Director prize from George Miller’s jury at the recent Cannes Film Festival, and it goes without saying that Stewart once again deserves Oscar attention. With this fascinating glimpse of genius from both Assayas and Stewart, Personal Shopper is a divine, almost beguiling, effort that plays with perceptions and will probably have you leaving the cinema in a fight.

Personal Shopper doesn’t yet have an Australian release date, but you can expect it in select cinemas before the end of the year.

Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.