Personal Shopper

March 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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As a rule (in my experience), Olivier Assayas can be a challenging director for an American audience. His work is dense and resists a traditional narrative arc. Sometimes that works, as I think it mostly did in “Clouds of Sils Maria.” This time, it did not. Assayas appears to have found a muse in Kristen Stewart. He seems to understand her wounded toughness in a way few other directors do and he can draw strong performances from her. Here she plays Maureen, the personal shopper for a French celebrity. At the beginning of the film, she is asked to stay in a now abandoned country home because it may be haunted and she has some sort of psychic ability. There is a brief side story about people apparently wanting to buy the house if the apparition can be dispelled but it never goes beyond one scene. Also, Maureen’s twin brother has died and he may/may not be part of this haunting. The film looks like it’s going to be a ghost story and does a good job in those early scenes of creating a creepy vibe. But, very quickly, it abandons that story line. Maureen moves to an apartment in Paris and begins getting creepy texts from an unknown person. Who is it? Could it be a ghost? The film plays with this for a while and appears to be evolving into an interesting thriller, especially when a murder occurs. But, then that is resolved very quickly. After that, return to the ghost theme and the film ends in a very nebulous way in Marrakesh. Along the way, there are some genuinely creepy, well constructed scenes and there are a lot of boring scenes of Maureen shopping and living vicariously in her boss’s clothing. The film won Best Director at Cannes, so it has clearly resonated with a lot of people. I just never found myself drawn in. The continuous shifting of the story line didn’t allow momentum to build, which seems to me to be a critical error in a thriller. Also, because the story was so muddy, the ending lacked punch for me. I think I get what Assayas was trying to say. If so, it’s an evocative idea. I just wish he had built up to it more effectively. As it was, I found the film too confusing when it was trying to be creepy and too boring when it was trying to be insightful. Not a good combination.

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