French Director and screenwriter Olivier Assayas is providing the
viewer with several different layers in this quiet little film called
“Personal Shopper.” Kristen
Stewart plays Maureen Cartwright, “an American in Paris” who's waiting
for something to happen to her. Literally.
It seems her twin brother, recently deceased, made a pact with
Maureen: the first one to die
is to come back and give a sign to the other, if indeed there is an
afterlife. They're both
mediums, and they both had congential heart conditions:
Maureen, of course, still lives with hers, but tentatively, as if
she's already resigned herself to a sort of shadowy existence on the
fringe of living. She doesn't
seem to have any friends, other than occasional contact with her former
sister-in-law, the widow of her brother, who seems quite ready to begin
moving on with her life, though Maureen clearly isn't.
Maureen's taken a job as a “personal shopper” for a shadowy,
mostly-absent French celebrity (we never know exactly the nature of her
stardom). Maureen buys dresses
and jewelry at the fanciest places in Paris, then takes off with these
shopping bags from very exclusive stores on her little motor bike,
scooting through busy streets until she's back in her old house, where she
and her brother had lived, still listening for signs “from beyond.”
Then we take a left turn and get into the “ghost story” aspect,
which, it turns out, is not a message from her twin brother at all, but
her openness to the paranormal makes her hear certain “vibes” or sense
some kind of “presence.” Mr.
Assayas is not that interested in scaring the viewers---not with typically
loud noises or things that suddenly jump out at you.
But he is interested in exploring the darker recesses of Maureen's
character, where her self-doubt lives.
She's alternately scared and bored.
She seems unaffected by anything, and yet she's willing to do
something impulsive as a response to a dare from a mysterious anonymous
texter. Like try on the
expensive dresses and shoes which she's supposedly forbidden to wear.
Kristen Stewart parlays her casual, non-affect, no-makeup self into
a brooding enigma unable to decide what she believes, or even what she
thinks she wants. So we're not
surprised when things happen to her while she's distracted by something
The consideration of “the afterlife” certainly doesn't reflect
traditional religion, or even formulaic ghost stories.
It's not a “spirituality” so much as it is an admission that
there are certain realties beyond the senses, and there aren't really any
guidebooks in getting yourself there.
Watching this film is agreeing to meander with Maureen for a while,
and see if it goes anywhere surprising.