It’s a drama, it’s a thriller, it’s a horror tale; it’s all those things, and Stewart is remarkable
“Personal Shopper” is a transfixing story about grief and loss that is restless in its genre-shifting: It’s a drama of detachment, a bump-in-the-night ghost story, an unnerving thriller.
Writer-director Olivier Assayas (“Clouds of Sils Maria”) is defiantly unconventional in his storytelling. He refuses to go the easy route and keeps viewers guessing as to where he’s heading, building to a humdinger of a finale that poses huge questions about what came before.
Kristen Stewart, who starred in “Clouds,” is marvelous as Maureen, an assistant to a high-powered celebrity named Kyra. She’s haunted by the death of her twin brother, with whom she shared a debilitating heart condition. She’s also a medium and is seeking contact with her brother, part of a promise they made to each other when he was alive.
Assayas captures Maureen’s inherent loneliness and her inner turmoil; she’s stuck between several worlds, just like the spirits with whom she’s attempting to connect. She has a foot in the celebrity world, but minimal access to its perks; she feels deep shame when she tries on Kyra’s clothes, though she can’t keep from doing it.
Maureen begins receiving text messages, increasingly menacing in nature, from an unknown caller. Are they from the beyond? Assayas creates a reality where anything is plausible even as the ground below keeps moving. (He integrates text message screens into the dramatic flow of his story as well as any director before him.)
“Personal Shopper” is tough to pin down, but it’s a strange and stunning ride — haunting without being hokey, with surprises around every turn.
Rated R: for some language, sexuality, nudity and a bloody violent image
Running time: 110 minutes