Personal Shopper (2016)

kristen-stewart-_-personal-shopper

The first GREAT movie of 2017. Totally unpredictable, genre-fluid and formally daring, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopperwas not at all the movie I expected, but it turned out to be exactly the one I needed. On paper, this movie just shouldn’t work. But as a living, breathing piece of CINEMA, it feels vital. All the narrative leaps, dead-ends, loops and misdirections had my head spinning. The thrill of having no idea where a film is going to go because the rules it’s playing by are constantly malleable is almost unbeatable. That being said, Personal Shopper isn’t a rollercoaster ride, the film slowly unfurls and remains grounded by a concrete emotional core embodied by Kristen Stewart.

This might be Stewart’s best performance yet and is an essential showcase for her. A bite of the lip, a hunch of the shoulder, a holding of breath; Stewart holds herself like no other actress working and makes choices that both puzzle and fascinate me. She never goes for the obvious beat, always downplays what would conventionally be over-played and as a sheer acting presence, she is intoxicating. This is one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. And much of Personal Shopper‘s allure comes from seeing Stewart embody this person and witnessing Assayas study her.

This is only my second Assayas movie (after Clouds of Sils Maria which Stewart is also terrific in) but it has given me a massive kick to check out more of his work. I like how Personal Shopper feels like a film of its day. It doesn’t try to pretend iPhones and technology doesn’t exist, and accepts all the social awkwardness and insular instincts of the millennial generation rather than damning them. He somehow made a film where a good twenty minutes is dedicated to Stewart sending text messages and it never feels flat or anti-cinematic. His complete disregard for boxes and confines is also thrilling. Assayas isn’t bound by genre rules or even narrative groundworks and seems to follow his characters into whatever genre or plot-turn they demand of him. It’s exciting to see films made this way, films which evade description and are best experienced rather than discussed. I don’t see them often, but when I do I know to cherish them. I only hesitate to give this a full five stars because I’m unsure how it will fare upon rewatch when the unknowing on a scene-by-scene basis is dispelled, but I have a feeling spending another two hours with Stewart’s performance will more than make up for it. Personal Shopper terrified, bemused and moved me in equal measure. SEE THIS FILM.

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