Film Review: 'Personal Shopper'

Kristen Stewart stars in the unnerving, multifaceted Personal Shopper

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper is a psychological thriller that explores identity while toying with the paranormal. Kristen Stewart stars as Maureen, a personal shopper who hates her job, and her wealthy clients. Since the death of her twin brother, who they both believed could communicate with the spirit world, Maureen has been waiting for a sign from him that confirms an afterlife. When she is not running around after the volatile celebrity Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), she spends time in her brother’s old house in Paris, listening to eerie creaks, dripping taps, and searching for his presence.

However, there is much more going on in this film than a generic ghost story. Maureen’s continuous search for her brother’s spirit can be seen as a metaphor for dealing with grief. She has become consumed with the idea of otherworld communication, to the detriment of her own life and happiness. Additionally, the film soon turns into a psychological analysis of Maureen’s character, where we learn about her fears, desires and struggle to accept her own identity. As a personal shopper, she focuses on the glamorous lives of others, and it seems she has lost herself along the way.

Stewart adds a vulnerability to Maureen’s character, a role that Assayas created especially for her. Her performance is a duel between calm, understated reality and the pureness of raw emotion. Somehow, both styles are just as effective at holding the audience’s attention, as we watch her become lost in an unnerving tangle of events. Lars Eidinger (Clouds of Sils Maria) adds an element of unease as Kyra’s romantic interest who becomes Maureen’s confidant and Waldstätten as Kyra personifies the spoilt, dark side of celebrity.

In Assayas’ artistic, French style, Personal Shopper explores aspects of the psyche that are eventually made clear during the film’s conclusion. Maureen—who is afraid of fear itself, desires the forbidden, and admits feeling shame—personifies much of the human condition. Her search for her brother’s spirit gives her a distraction from developing her own sense of self, and as she faces a world without him, she must discover who she really is.


Courtesy of IFC Films.

Personal Shopper is now playing in San Francisco.