Director Olivier Assayas reteams with his Clouds of Sils Maria co-lead Kristen Stewart for Personal Shopper, in which Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper for a movie star, who can also see ghosts. Maureen can. Sort of. She’s a medium who can ~*~sense~*~ supernatural presences, including (she hopes) that of her late twin brother, who recently passed away. He’s the reason she’s camped out in Paris, doing the mind-numbing work of picking outfits for the self-involved Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) while off-and-on spending nights in her late brother’s house: the twins promised that the one who died first would contact the other.
Also… Maureen’s being stalked. Maybe by a ghost? Maybe not.
There’s a lot going on in this movie, basically, and it never quite gels together; you can’t help feeling that the ghost and fashion plots here were once two different movies that Assayas, who also wrote the script, awkwardly forced together in a fit of “fuck it.” (I’m not saying that’s the case—nothing I’ve read about Personal Shopper indicates it started out as two separate movies. I’m just saying there’s enough disconnect between the two halves that it feels a bit like that.)
There’s one element, though, that keeps Personal Shopper together as a compelling whole, and that is Stewart’s performance as the grieving, shell-shocked, disengaged yet yearning—for connection, for an end to the emotional numbness—Maureen. You wouldn’t know it if your only exposure to Stewart was through the Twilight movies—or, for that matter, Snow White and the Huntsman—but Stewart’s gradually worked her way into becoming one of the best actresses working today.
I remember watching Adventureland, which came out between the first and second Twilight movies, in which Stewart plays the enigmatic, damaged obsession of nerdy, awkward James (Jesse Eisenberg), and thinking… “holy hell, Kristen Stewart’s a really good actress. The problem in Twilight isn’t her—it’s the material!” Stewart is wasted in high-drama, YA schlock, because that’s not the sort of actor she is. Stewart is cool, contained, potentially explosive. I read something once that compared her energy to that of James Dean, and that’s always stuck with me because… yes, that’s exactly how she is. A compelling blend of tough and vulnerable, she’s a screen presence that—when utilized properly, as she is in Personal Shopper—you can’t look away from.
Every single thing Kristen Stewart does in this movie is riveting. There are extended sequences of her texting—literally, just sitting on a train texting—and it’s more suspenseful, more emotionally engaging than just about anything I’ve seen in a big-budget movie so far this year. Kristen Stewart texting: Amazing. Kristen Stewart riding a Vespa: Amazing. Kristen Stewart trying on her employer’s clothes: Double plus amazing, sign me the fuck up. She spends the whole movie like a star on the verge of going supernova, and I couldn’t look away.
She also spends a good chunk of the movie wearing a black Lacoste polo shirt. Seriously, this shit:
The most basic, uninspired shirt imaginable. (Sorry… uh… polo shirt enthusiasts?) And she makes it look like the hippest, most fashionable thing ever bought off the rack at Macy’s, because that’s the sheer Kristen Stewart-ness of it all. Her hair in this movie is unkempt, bordering on greasy (which fits the character—I know I wasn’t hugely concerned about hair and makeup in the month after my own brother died), and I still came out of the movie with a bone-deep urge to call my hair stylist, begging her to give me the Kristen-Stewart-in-Personal-Shopper-IDGAF lob.
I couldn’t pull it off.
Rare is the creature who could.
Kristen Stewart is just so. Fucking. Cool. And she’s only 26. Honestly, nothing about this is fair and I’m going to go drink away my sorrows. Call me, Kristen.