Opinion: Personal Shopper (2016)

Going into this film I had no real clue what it was going to be about. I heard some mixed reactions about it and I understand both the good and the bad things that they bring up, but before we get into that here’s a little synopsis: Kristen Stewart, a personal shopper for a famous, self-centered model, her twin brother has passed away with whom she’d made a promise to. This promise was that when one of them died, they would try to contact each other from the afterlife.

The directing part of this film was quite interesting. The tone he chose for the film went from one to the other whereby it felt like I was watching multiple movies at once, but for some reason it really fitted with the film. Often when a film tries to be a lot, it fails at doing so, here they all just blended in together pretty nicely. And this is because they all lean back to the grief Kristen Stewart is going through at that moment, because that’s the main story line, even though it seems like it branches off into something else pretty early on in the film.  Kristen Stewart was also able to capture the feeling about what it is like to go to the process of grief. Stewart is mostly known for her awful role in the Twilight series, in which she plays a basically emotionless human being. After that role, though, she’s gone on to choose better projects in which she got her time to shine. This film was one of them. Really, she’s one of the main reasons why you should watch this film, I was blown away by her performance and as the film progressed, she seemed to get better and better, because the movie challenged her more to portray this multi-layered and complex character as she went through more things that shape someone.  Stewart was able to become her character and gave the best performance I’ve seen of her.

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Kristen Stewart in “Personal Shopper” – 2016

Another thing that I liked lies back at the director of the film, Olivier Assayas. Normally in a mystery film they eventually let you have a shot which kind of gives you the last piece of the puzzle, where after you’ve solved the mystery. In this movie you don’t have that. The film challenges you to think about it, even when the credits have stopped rolling, and you’ll need that time to think to understand the film.  He leaves a couple of questions unanswered at the end of the film, but after thinking about it, they’ll start to make sense. Olivier Assayas was also pretty good at setting up tense/scary scenes of which there are a couple in the film, but not enough to call it a horror film, which a lot of people suspected it would be: just your average ghost film, but it’s much more than that.

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The screenplay was pretty good and contained an interesting and unpredictable story, which was engaging as well. If it wasn’t clear from the part where I praised Kristen Stewart for her acting; the characters were good as well.  The side characters were relatively flat, but Kristen Stewart’s was really well developed. That’s because she’s obviously the protagonist, but also because the writer wanted to show her loneliness in this world after the death of her brother, which is also a subplot that’s briefly discussed at times, or not necessarily discussed, but it is at least something that you can find in the subtext of certain scenes.  I liked what they did via the medium of text messages and brought a certain sense of mystery to the film. These text messages also brought a downside to the film and that’s the dialogue that’s had between Kristen Stewart and the other person texting. This was just a bit silly at times.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the editing. The continuous fading to black for example felt really out of place and seemed to only be there to let you know that you’re watching an art house film. The choppy editing at times also interfered with the smooth flow of the film, which is a shame.

Now overall this is a film that you’d have to check out, if not only for Kristen Stewart’s performance or the wonderful directing. The editing can be a bit bad at times, but overall it’s fine. That’s why this film gets a well-earned B+.

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