It’s 2007, before audiences would learn that Kristen Stewart was to be their Bella Swan, and there’s enormous acclaim for her tiny little role in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. Anyone would think that the former child actress was being prepped for major stardom.
Of course, Stewart won the Twilight gig, becoming an object of obsession for girls everywhere, one half of Robsten, and a fixture on Hollywood’s Most Hated lists. Now, in 2017, she’s finally the ‘Best of her Generation’ — as Olivier Assayas described her after directing her to a César for her role as a PA to a neurotic actress in Clouds of Sils Maria.
Stewart made history as the first American to win the French version of an Oscar, and Assayas would write Personal Shopper with her in mind to star as Maureen, a young expat in Paris. Again, she’s a flunky to a celebrity, with her supermodel employer dispatching her to upscale boutiques to try on clothes and pick up red carpet outfits.
Maureen is far more than an underling; she’s a psychic medium, a grieving twin sister, and an artist. She hates her job, but she’s in limbo in the French capital mourning her brother, who died from a heart defect she shares. She sits alone at night in his Parisian mansion, waiting for a sign from the other side.
The building creaks and the pipes rattle, and a rageaholic spirit scratches out her artwork. When Maureen is harassed by text message, we’re supposed to be unsure whether or not she is at the mercy of something more sinister than a fashionista; have ghosts made the jump-scare to the digital era, or has she got a stalker?
If this sounds like a weird blend of high fashion, ectoplasm, and suspense…you’d be right – but it really is an engrossing addition to the whodunnit/horror/coming-of-age genre that probably wouldn’t have worked with a typical lead actress.
But Stewart seems so plausible when she talks (or does that notorious Stewart mumble, mumble, shuffle) about the difficulty of finding portals to the spirit world, it seems perfectly reasonable. From that truthful base, she is fascinating; you just want to keep watching her.
Personal Shopper is a beautiful and detailed treat, from the Vionnet and Chanel dresses, down to Maureen’s beanies, polo shirts and sloppy sweaters. It looks like a fashion shoot, all carried off by Stewart’s insouciance.
She even makes the name ‘Maureen’ sound cool.
For those that ‘celebrate’ it, have a Happy Halloween, and do check out my Guide to Scary Movies.