Another season, another pretentious indie starring Kristen Stewart.
Don’t worry – Personal Shopper isn’t quite as awful as fall 2016’s Certain Women, but it’s not much of an improvement, either.
The dopey, overpraised film once again floats the fake news that Stewart is a great actress capable of carrying a narrative feature, a lost cause for which writer/director Olivier Assayas is becoming the most passionate cheerleader.
Though many have and will argue otherwise, putting Stewart front and center didn’t work in the otherwise excellent Clouds of Sils Maria and definitely falls short in Personal Shopper as Stewart on her own isn’t nearly the force it was when paired with Juilette Binoche, who sadly isn’t here to act circles around her younger co-star.
Opening with a laughable sequence of Maureen (Stewart) in an empty old house attempting to communicate with the spirit world, Personal Shopper waits until the half hour mark to reveal that she’s a medium instead of merely a crazy woman, though her ghost hunting is far more entertaining than scenes of her titular job for a demanding Kardashian-esque, Paris-based celebrity.
When Stewart isn’t rudely chatting with boutique clothiers, clogging up the audio track with her usual monotone delivery and lack of emotion, she’s attempting to make contact with her twin brother, a fellow medium with whom she shares the same heart defect and whose recent-ish death in Paris clearly weighs on her.
The spectral effects of Maureen’s mysterious visitor(s) aren’t guy-wearing-a-bedsheet terrible, but neither are they great. What they do, however, is cast a supernatural veneer over a story and character unable to deliver on those promises, even in a supplemental regard.
And so, when inexplicable text messages from an unknown number begin appearing on Maureen’s phone, implying things that few if any living beings would know, audiences are meant to wait breathlessly for the reveal of the sender’s identity.
Instead, these faux-suspenseful iPhone exchanges – which occupy insanely more screen time than necessary – call to mind Unfiended, the worst film of 2016, but without the painful teen “acting.” Whether or not Assayas realizes he’s channeling that low point in modern cinema is sadly a greater mystery than anything he enacts here, though his film’s attempts at suspense are about as successful as the unforgettable, eye-roll-inducing Spinning Beach Ball of Death from that computer screen-set dud.
Grade: D-plus. Rated R. Not currently playing locally.
(Photo: IFC Films)