★★★★★ – Twisty and subversive, Kristen Stewart shines as a young woman tormented by the spirit of her recently deceased twin brother.
For too long, Kristen Stewart has been kept inside the ‘ex-Twilight star’ box sprecially crafted for her by the media. After consistently producing excellent performances post-Twilight in films such as Still Alice, Café Society and Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart finally clinches the deal, confirming her rising status as one of the best actresses of her generation in Olivier Assayas’ genre-defying movie, Personal Shopper.
Set against a backdrop of the Parisian high-fashion world, Stewart plays the role of Maureen, a personal shopper to a beautiful, very wealthy yet highly difficult young socialite, Kyra. Though the dream job of many, Maureen loathes her occupation. Her real reason for being in Paris is to connect with the spirit of her recently deceased twin brother, who like Maureen was also a psychic medium capable of communicating with the dead. Long before his passing, the twins made a pact; the first one to die would leave signs for the other to follow.
The film is interesting because of how it defies genre-labelling. What you think you are seeing, a creepy haunted house horror flick which opens with Kristen wandering around a dark mansion at night attempting to make contact with her brother, takes an immediate twist. After Maureen begins receiving aggravating and anonymous texts from some seemingly all-knowing stranger, we are let in on the tormented psyche of this young woman. Because that is what this story is really about – the journey of unwitting self-discovery Maureen is taken on.
Various paths are explored along the route, but to detail these would be to spoil the intrigue of what is one of the most subversive film narrative’s I have ever watched. What I can say without hesitation is that the acting is stellar from everyone involved, though Kristen occupies the screen throughout almost the entire film – it’s a character study as much as anything. The ending is spectacular and unnerving, one that makes the entire film unmissable.
In the Q&A hosted after the screening, chaired by Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw with the director Olivier Assayas, Bradshaw explained a notable point about Stewart. Whilst she is unarguably similar in every film she does, a quiet, anxious presence, this does not actually detract from her skill and performance. Much the same way that Mark Wahlberg always plays a tough, gruff working man’s hero, and Isabelle Huppert is ever the vision of icy strength, some great actors are able to be brilliant whilst remaining in the familiar realm of themselves.
Though Personal Shopper may leave its viewers with more questions than answers, it still deserves your attention, if only to bear witness to the turning point in the ascent of Kristen Stewart.
– Thomas Marrington