Personal Shopper (VIFF Review)

Kristen Stewart deserves credit. First, she played Jodie Foster’s daughter in David Fincher’s tight thriller Panic Room, and then she popped up as a representation of a road less traveled in Into The Wild – and then Twilight. Although – critically – the series put her back many years, as soon as she was free she sought the plum roles in many high profile indies of the last five years (Adventureland, The Runaways, On The Road) until reaching her pinnacle and present stage: critical darling. For her role in Clouds of Sils Maria she won the César award for best supporting actress, the first American actress to do so. She held her own against Julianne Moore in Still Alice, and against Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell in Woody Allen’s Café Society.

What I want to review is one of her two latest. The other (Certain Women) I will get to soon, and eagerly. This movie is Personal Shopper, one part thriller, one part horror, set in Paris. Stewart plays a big time model’s personal shopper who at the same time works as a medium, taking advantage of her stay in Paris to explore reportedly haunted houses in search of her twin brother’s spirit.

One half of this movie – the personal shopper half – is all Hitchcock. As she loses herself to the demands of her job and the many dead ends in her search for her brother, an anonymous contact begins texting her, which is a device the movie proved to me beyond what was necessary that such a simple, modern kind of communication has the capacity to terrify.

Stewart is in full, agitated, fashionable form here, and it might be one of her best performances to date. Sadly the script wastes the performance, its two story premises, and its texting device due to its problems with pace and structure.

For once, I hope a Hollywood executive takes these ingredients, separates them, and then rehashes them into specific, tight genre films; however, that is not the European cinematic way, and so we have these gambles, which are ultimately worth it and yet so often lead to disappointment.

Despite everything, Personal Shopper is worth seeing for its isolated highlights.

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