No matter what sort of movie you’re expecting from “Personal Shopper,” you’ll get it. You’ll also contend with three others, and then the movie you first expected will turn inside out.
So all that awaits the receptive viewer, along with a dangling modifier of an ending guaranteed to satisfy virtually no one. Even so, this is one of the most intriguing pictures of the year, a genre-hopper of unusual gravity. It’s also the latest proof that Kristen Stewart has the goods for a long-haul acting career, with all sorts of directors, playing all sorts of characters.
“Personal Shopper” comes from writer-director Olivier Assayas, based in France, who worked previously with Stewart on “Clouds of Sils Maria” three years ago.
In “Personal Shopper,” Stewart plays Maureen, an American making a hollow, silly, swank-adjacent living in Paris as personal shopper to a demanding high-fashion celebrity (Nora von Waldstatten). She’s perpetually sending Maureen off to Chanel or some other boutique for jewels, or shoes, and has a strict policy against Maureen trying any of her outfits on for size, or for wish-fulfillment fantasy purposes.
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Maureen’s twin brother, Lewis, died just weeks earlier, the victim of the same “malformation” of the heart marking her condition. A spiritual medium, like her brother, Maureen exists day to day in a state of suspended animation, waiting for a sign from the beyond from her late twin. A more conventional script would lay these details out, and then get to the first scene in the creaky old country home outside Paris where Lewis lived. Here, in a quiet, shadowy overture, Assayas takes us into the shadows straight off, where Maureen awaits a signal, a bump, anything.
In many ways this is a tale of a young woman’s agitated grief, pure and simple, and Stewart’s wonderful and wholly persuasive as that woman. The movie barely hangs together, but there’s a kind of magic in that word “barely” when you’re in that movie’s thrall.
Rated: R for some language, sexuality, nudity and a bloody violent image. Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz. Director: Olivier Assayas. Running time: 110 minutes. Theater: Flicks.