Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Film fest '16: Day Three

Yesterday was the first chance I had to see something non-ushering related.

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

Following last year's Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to the NZIFF in her second collaboration with writer-director Olivier Assayas.

Occasionally, I watch a movie and catch myself thinking 'I wouldn't do it like that.' That statement popped into my head quite a few times during this one.

The story is kind of convoluted. Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, an American living in Paris who works as a 'personal shopper' for famous people who cannot go out in public. She is also a medium who is trying to make contact with her dead twin brother. 

Oh, and she is also being terrorized by a mysterious stalker who sends her provocative texts with questions like 'What scares you?' (To this viewer, the answer would be KStew's wardrobe. She models an impressive selection of hideous sweaters (see above) which were far more disturbing than anything else in the movie).

The problem with this movie is that it is simultaneously too obvious and too understated at the same time. The central issue is that the story wants to be too many things at once, and Assayas is not a subtle enough filmmaker to balance all of these elements effectively.

At times, the movie wants to make you question whether it is all in her head -- and other times, she is cowering from a CG ghost. It's an odd, uneven picture with some strong moments, but not enough in the way of narrative or diegetic coherence to make it truly enjoyable.

The acting ranges from passable to very good. Stewart provides a strong central performance -- her sullen, sarcastic presence is a plus here, and she provides a certain level of emotional heft to the darker moments. While the filmmakers seem to have an uneven grasp on the material, she is completely invested, and provides a strong anchor when credibility starts to crumble.

Not a complete disaster, but Personal Shopper is not strange enough to recommend as an oddity. Watch it for Stewart's performance (and her sweaters!).

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