“It’s like Personal Shopper was trying to be serious, but then it decided instead to go full on ‘The Frighteners’ to fuck with people.”
Last night I watched Personal Shopper and it was nothing like I expected. Not that I really had any expectations for the movie, but if you had put a gun to my head yesterday morning and forced me to give you plot summary, the last thing that would have come to my mind was fucking ghosts. Personal Shopper is a film about a young woman who is living in Paris and working as a personal shopper (get it? it’s like the title of the movie) for a really famous person. But she’s actually in Paris because her brother died of a heart attack and she is trying to communicate with his ghost. Other things happen in the movie, but for me to try and unpack them here would take a whole lot of time, and by the end of it you’d probably assume that I was certifiably insane; so I’ll leave it at that.
Now I don’t dislike being surprised by movies, as a matter of fact that’s why I rarely watch trailers anymore, but Personal Shopper really caught me off guard. What I had assumed would be a drama about Kristen Stewart trying on clothes (based on the poster, at least) turned out to be a weird pseudo-horror film with some thriller elements. And this is where my biggest problem with Personal Shopper lies: the inconsistent tone. Personal Shopper tries to do so much with its just under two-hour runtime, and all this accomplishes is confuses the audience (or at least me). There were at least four different stories that were trying to be told all at once in this film, and each one could have been interesting on its own but all together it was kind of a mess. You have the story of the ghost(s), then you have the story of Kristen Stewart’s envy of her boss, then you get a creepy boyfriend introduced into the picture, then there’s a murder, but there is also this weird grief metaphor that is constantly looming overhead; it’s all just too much. I found Personal Shopper really confusing, but not in the traditional sense. I understood everything I was seeing, but I didn’t understand why I was seeing it. Why all of these different story lines were threaded together so randomly, and any symbolism that was intended were completely lost on me. I was constantly left scratching my head trying to figure out exactly where the movie was going to go next, or where it had taken me already.
Even technically speaking Personal Shopper was pretty fucking weird, namely the film’s editing. So many scenes were cut short with a fade to black that I was left wondering if the main character was narcoleptic. I understand that as movies evolve, it’s unnecessary to show every single aspect of the film because the audience isn’t stupid, but having scenes constantly fade to black got really annoying by the halfway-mark. As for the performances, they were definitely in the movie. I had heard a few people praising Kristen Stewart for her performance in Personal Shopper, but for me she was just Kristen Stewart. Always flustered, out of breath, unable to formulate thoughts; you know, Kristen Stewart. Everyone else in the movie was there too. It’s hard to really rank these performances because I think the intention was to have everyone be weird, almost as if the entire film was a dream. If that was the intention then they nailed it, but if it wasn’t then they fucked up royally along the way. I would love to sit here and discuss other parts of the movie, but I can’t get over the fucking ghost. It’s like Personal Shopper was trying to be serious, but then it decided instead to go full on ‘The Frighteners’ to fuck with people.
Overall Personal Shopper is a very interesting movie. And by interesting I mean confusing and bad. Not only does it feel too unfocused with its multiple story lines, but it also feels really inconsistent with all of the different kinds of genres and tones they are shoving into this one movie. And the performances and the editing only hurt what I’m sure could have been a pretty interesting film.
I give Personal Shopper a D