Plot: What’s it about?
I’m a fan of Criterion’s titles and have been for quite some time. I’ll also be the first to admit that most of their catalog isn’t for me. I’ve nothing against world cinema, but my heart just longs for American films. But I’m also trying to expand my horizons. So when Personal Shopper arrived, I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d only heard of this in passing and, admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of Kristen Stewart, but it’s all about trying new things. Stewart had previously worked with director Oliver Assayas in Clouds of Sils Maria (which I’ve not seen). I have to imagine, and I’m hypothesizing here, that if a well-known American actress does two French films with the same director – there’s got to be a reason why.
Stewart plays Maureen, someone who has lost her twin, Lewis. She’s an American living in Europe and working as an aide for a rich socialite (Nora von Waldstatten) who’s rarely seen. She buys expensive clothing and accessories for her, but is forbidden to try them on. Maureen, not especially happy in her life, just needs enough money to pay the rent and continue living in Paris. She’s also an amateur medium who’s trying to reach out (spiritually, of course) to her deceased brother. The problem is that Lewis doesn’t seem to be too willing to reciprocate. Concerned that she might suffer the same genetic fate (a heart condition) as her brother, she spends her time searching for answers to questions all the while going nowhere.
This is the sort of film you’ll either be intrigued by or you’ll turn off in 15 minutes. Stewart does a fine job, but there’s nary a smile to be seen and the film does move along at a snail’s pace. Stick with it, though. It gets better. Fans of Stewart will most likely appreciate her willingness to try new things (films). I think she’s got enough in the bank, thanks to the Twilight films, that she doesn’t have to worry about a paycheck. And don’t be fooled by the trailer, this isn’t a “ghost” story in the literal sense. It’s a story well told and Stewart shows us that she’s perhaps at her best when playing it low key. And she plays it low key, there’s no mistaking it.
Video: How’s it look?
While the image itself is nearly flawless, there’s just not a lot of color going on here. That and Stewart’s wardrobe, combined with her skin, makes for a pretty pale image. That’s not a knock on her, but while black levels and contrast remain strong – it struck me as a seemingly lifeless palette (pardon the pun). Criterion’s efforts, as usual, are top notch and with the film being new – it’s certainly indicative of a new to the format disc. No real complaints here, it’s a top notch effort – just don’t expect a rainbow of colors.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The film is fairly dialogue-driven, though I was surprised, mainly in the opening sequence, how robust part of this were. The opening and shutting of doors and windows never sounded so good! The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few moments where the surrounds come alive, but the center and fronts shoulder the majority of the mix. It’s a good, solid effort, and it gets the job done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Oliver Assayas – Conducted in June, 2017 this interview with the director was made especially for the Criterion release. French director Oliver Assayas tells of his personal history with the film, his inspirations (the three volume Death and Mystery) as well as some other odds and ends. Running just over 15 minutes, I’d have liked to have heard more, but this is a pretty good bit of information contained in this supplement.
- Cannes Film Festival, 2016 – Oliver Assayas won the best director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 for Personal Shopper, and the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or. This press conference features actress Kristen Stewart as well as some other members of the cast and crew as they field some questions from the audience.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
I can’t comment on Stewart’s first collaboration with director Oliver Assayas, but Personal Shopper is one that stuck with me. It’s polarizing and it’s something different from the norm. I’m glad I made myself watch it. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or, but lost to The Square. Suffice it to say this sort of movie is right up . Criterion’s alley. It’s a bit lacking in supplemental material, especially for a Criterion release, so only true fans might want to pick this one up.