Personal Shopper (2016)

Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper: You can’t know what you don’t speak

Director and Writer: Olivier Assayas

For those of you that don’t know (because I sure didn’t when I started this), “Personal Shopper” is about a YOU GUESSED IT personal shopper named Maureen (Kristen Stewart) whose real interest lies in the spiritual world. Maureen’s brother Lewis died and she stays in Paris to await his sign from the afterlife. The only thing I knew about this film before I watched it was that it seemed dark and odd; my favorite combo! It definitely fulfilled the “odd” expectation, but it was more mystical than dark to me. The whole plot eluded me until about 20-30 minutes into the movie which shouldn’t be a surprise since Olivier Assayas is a French writer and most French movies I see have plots that can best be described as… ambiguous. (You know those movies that just kind of go? No clear exposition, climax, de-acceleration like other films of the world. More like Exposition, exposition, action, climax? exposition)

Honestly, I should have known this movie’s title was somewhat of a red herring since for a personal shopper, our girl Maureen wore a lot of shapeless sweaters.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually loved her style with her circular framed sunglasses and leather bomber jackets. However, when she’s picking out couture Chanel in something I’m pretty sure my dad owns, we have a problem.

Now let’s get into this.

“Everything is fine you just need to avoid both intense physical efforts and extreme emotions,” said Dr. Good News

Well considering this movie involves Maureen searching for a sign from her dead brother for three months (extreme emotion) and being stalked around Paris then London by a mystery person (intense physical effort), I’d say she’s shit out of luck.

I’m surprised Maureen’s heart problem didn’t pose more of a problem in this movie. She saw her boss’s freshly murdered body and she narrowly escaped many a panic attack, but there was never a clutching-my-chest moment from her. I’m not even sure why this whole doctor visit and shared heart condition with her twin brother was even necessary. Just to solidify their connection? Unclear.

I can only speak Apple product

Let’s talk about the sheer amount of screen time given to Maureen’s DEVICES in this movie. She’s constantly talking, Facetiming, talking or texting SOMEONE using her iPhone or Mac. I think this is significant since this movie is about Maureen trying to catch a sign from her brother in a fashion she’s (as far as it seems) wholly unfamiliar with. But what she is familiar with is using her goddamn Apple devices to connect with people. This is a form of communication she understands while the one she desperately wants (talking with her dead brother), alludes her.

And by the way, it’s not just Maureen. Our girl Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) has a conference call with her lawyers (photo 4 in slideshow below) that Assayas devotes a shot or two to. I know this is how we communicate in the 21st century so it’s natural for a mostly realistic movie to reflect realistic communicative measures. BUT COME ON. The constant presence of at least one device is excessive and deliberate.

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What the Ingo?!

This was going to be in the “Answer My Q’s” portion, but because I’m utterly lost about an incident that may be the climax of the movie, I say it deserves its own section.

What the hell happened in that hotel?

After Maureen finds Kyra’s body then calls the police then finds the Cartier bags planted at her place then goes to the hotel and hears a sound at the door, it fades to black. Then we see… nothing walking. We see nothing opening an elevator that opens to the lobby. We see nothing getting out of the elevator and leaving the hotel through two automatic doors that signal its departure. We know only nothing is walking because the camera pans. We only know nothing leaves because of the motions of its surroundings. But ultimately, we see nothing.

This is followed by YOU GUESSED IT, Ingo (Lars Eidinger) leaving the same hotel room and taking the same path as nothing did a scene before; down the elevator, through the lobby and out the doors. But our boy Ingo is instead met outside with two dudes aggressively herding him to a car which he must dislike since he pulls out a gun and fires that thing at them.

Now my question is once again: What the hell happened in that hotel? Did Maureen become an apparition who waltzed out of the hotel undetected? Since we never come back to her in the room as she was before the fade to black that was my original assumption, but I’m open to any interpretation since I have no idea what just happened. LET ME KNOW.

Now it’s time for some…

Shots, Shots, Shots

Personal Shopper Shot
Maureen on a train to London at peak discomfort thanks to some eerily accurate, mysterious texts

I think I like this shot because it makes your eyes dance. You want to follow Maureen’s eyes out the window, but the seats make you want to look back. It’s working on every axis which makes it interesting. Also Kristen Stewart’s cheekbones look flawless here. Peak discomfort is a good look for her, no wonder she plays it so often.

Personal Shopper Open
A fixed camera mixed with an open floor plan and talking to spirits = perpetual tension

I liked this shot because it made me VERY stressed. This shot lasted for a few minutes at least of mounting anticipation and anxiety since Maureen thinks her brother is communicating with her, but is later convinced otherwise. What I really liked about this shot was the whole left portion is an open room from which anything can jump out. Yes, I’m focused on Maureen but lord who knows what’s behind that wall…

Answer my Q’s!

  1. Who the HELL is Gary and what relationship does he have with Maureen? AND why does he always look like we caught him on the tail end of a bar brawl?
  1. Why is Maureen so comfortable calling Kyra a pain in the ass to some random dude she just met? (At this point, she doesn’t know that’s Ingo and he’s Kyra’s side piece)… Wouldn’t you be more discreet about how much you hate your boss with some dude who is clearly close enough to your pain in the ass boss to be SITTING IN HER APARTMENT?
  1. Was there any doubt that the mysterious texter WASN’T Ingo? I mean he was basically the only other character we were even formally introduced to who got longer than a two sentence exchange with Maureen.

Before we go…

As my title at the beginning suggests, I think an integral part of this movie is about communication and how you cannot know what you do not speak. Maureen spends the duration of the film waiting on a sign from her brother and when he’s STANDING BEHIND HER, she has no idea.

The person behind you is definitely not alive

When he BREAKS A GLASS, she blames Erwin. She thinks she makes contact with her brother in what I’m assuming is a place in Muscat, Oman but once its signs become aggressive (as she interprets them), she doesn’t think so.

Basically what I’m saying is maybe Maureen is kind of a shitty medium. I don’t even know if there’s such thing as a good medium, but someone who can only talk to spirits if they fit a script does not seem very good to me.

Rating (out of 10): 5 

I’m not used to movies that kind of… flow. Movies that take you on a ride that seems a bit pointless or less dramatic/eventful than I’m used to. This movie followed one woman on a somewhat spiritual somewhat creepy journey and if that’s all you’re giving me, this better be one dynamic, exciting woman. Kristen Stewart, while she is fun to watch, is not in my opinion dynamic or exciting. The plot was weird, but could have been weirder at least that would make it more interesting. There were just no other characters than Maureen and I didn’t even really care about her! But hey, I loved all the clothes and shoes.

Thanks for reading!

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