Given all the criticism that this movie reviewed, I started watching it expecting something vaporous, ambiguous, and slightly incoherent. Most french movies are vaporous or diagonal (their intent and meaning is complicated to relate and connect within the film), and this movie was directed by french film-maker Oliver Assayas, who also directed Clouds of Sils Maria (showcasing Kristen Stewart, as well), so I wouldn’t have been surprised had that been the case.
However, Personal Shopper is nothing of the sort. It is not incoherent or ambiguous, at least not for those viewers used to watching films that are not exclusively commercial. I found Personal Shopper’s storyline to have a satisfying beginning, middle and end. The only ambiguity in the whole experience would have to be at the end, where the viewer is left to decide what she/he believes in… a tactic that has been used in many films succesfully, and I would argue that this is the case here, as well.
Personall Shopper is a story about a girl who can see and communicate with ghosts. Her twin brother just died. During life, he also had the same ability as her… it is hinted that he was even more of a powerful medium than her sister and was decidedly the more spiritual of the pair. He dies from a heart condition in Paris, and her sister decides to stay there after his death to try to make a connection with him and get definite proof of an afterlife.
What I found so curious about the main character was that she was a skeptic. She has had all these experiences with ghosts and the like, but she still remains skeptical of what she sees and hears. She doesn’t know if her psyche is creating all of these images herself, or giving them a backstory that’s not necessarily true. So she isn’t a believer, not like her brother was during life.
I really liked the main character and how it was played. She’s a personal shopper for a famous parisian celebrity, and she has a good eye and good taste, and is also competent at her job, but she doesn’t really like it. She likes the clothes because they feel so foreign to her personality. She likes to fantasize about something that’s so distant from who she is and her real world but that she’s surrounded by in her day to day… much like the spirit world surrounds her even though she doesn’t fully comprehend it. So fashion and style are diagonally equated with spirituality in the film, something I found neatly symmetrical.
There is also mystery within the movie. Maureen (the main character’s name) is contacted by someone through her cellphone that, in her obsession, she believes at first to be either her brother or some other type of ghost without thinking that it could be something even more sinister than that, and not at all supernatural. This mystery is resolved throughout the film, and her brother *SPOILER ALERT* does make a satisfying appearance, tying up all the mysteries in the movie with a fitting resolution.
Instead of vaporous, I found the film to be satisfyingly grounded. The acting was engaging (Kristen Stewart does manage to carry the whole film) and the story-line and plot intriguing and interesting to follow. I also enjoyed the film’s detours, such as the little piece about artist Hilma af Klint, who I am curious about.
Overall a nice movie to watch on a weekend when you have nothing to do and want to relax and spend some time searching for your own truth regarding the afterlife and spirit world and what it really means for all of us.