[Screen It]

"PERSONAL SHOPPER"
(2017) (Kristen Stewart, Sigrid Bouaziz) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A personal shopper spends her down time trying to contact her dead twin brother, all while contending with someone -- or something -- sending her anonymous text messages that seem to know her every move and location.
PLOT:
Maureen Cartwright (KRISTEN STEWART) is a young woman who works as a personal shopper in Paris for wealthy socialite Kyra Gellman (NORA VON WALDSTATTEN), buying her expensive clothing, jewelry and such for public appearances. With her boyfriend, Gary (TY OLWIN), located somewhere else around the globe, she spends her downtime trying to contact the spirit of her twin brother, Lewis, who died three months ago. His girlfriend, Lara (SIGRID BOUAZIZ), allows Maureen -- who's also a medium of sorts -- into their former and now empty house, and Maureen does have a supernatural encounter, but then realizes it's not her brother's spirit.

But she then starts receiving text messages from an anonymous sender who seems to know her every move and location, all of which makes her wonder if that might somehow be her brother's spirit. From that point on, she tries to figure out who's sending them and whether her brother's spirit is indeed around and trying to contact her.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
I love most everything about brainstorming. In a world where most everyone second guesses ideas and edits them before they're fully fleshed out -- all stemming from worrying about others' opinions -- brainstorming allows the creative juices to flow without internal or external judgment.

Of course, once the storming has concluded, that's when editing or selective choice comes in. It's rare that one finishes such a session with "let's include everything I just thought up," mainly because some ideas don't always mesh well together and either deserve their own project or require jettisoning altogether.

When a filmmaker throws in too many disparate things into the great moviemaking machine and expects or at least hopes for greatness, he or she is usually setting themselves up for disappointment or failure.

Such is the case with "Personal Shopper," an odd little pic that might not include the kitchen sink (although it does feature two spigots in one sequence come to think of it), but has far too much going on during its 110-some minute runtime.

As directed by Olivier Assayas from his own screenplay, it -- as the title would suggest -- focuses on a woman (Kristen Stewart) who works in that titular occupation in Paris, buying high-end outfits and jewelry for her wealthy socialite boss (Nora Von Waldstatten). That could make for an interesting drama and perhaps social commentary on the haves and have-nots, the public fascination with celebrities, judging a book by its cover and so on.

But the filmmaker isn't content with that, for the protagonist has recently lost her twin brother to the same heart malformation she possesses. Thus, we're looking at a story about grief. But we quickly learn she's also a medium -- although not in any sort of way to make the viewer truly believe that -- and is thus trying to contact her dead brother's spirit in the house he formerly inhabited with his girlfriend (Sigrid Bouaziz).

I'm guessing with a bit of script tweaking, those two story elements -- being a personal shopper AND a clairvoyant hoping for some sibling contact -- could work together. But then another element gets thrown into the mix, and that's of some sort of anonymous stalker who seems to know Maureen's every move and motive, as evidenced by the numerous text messages he, she or it sends to the main character's phone. For some (bad script) reason, she wonders if that might be her late brother's doing, but that sort of segues over to more of a cautionary tale about the perils of modern technology and related behavior.

Again, that might have been okay -- if not original -- on its own, but having it mashed up with the other elements results in a film that's a bit of a mess and one that's all over the board (and includes a late in the game, off-screen murder where the follow-up police investigation is anything but believable). To make matters worse, the entire thing is excruciatingly boring, unless you enjoy watching minute after minute of text message exchanges that ultimately don't amount to anything (despite promising the potential of just the opposite).

If you've ever thought watching people playing video games is boring, that's high entertainment compared to this, with the filmmaker also throwing in scenes of Maureen watching an old movie or documentary about a psychic from the past (none of which is remotely interesting or does anything for the plot beyond a "knock once for yes and twice for no" instruction that plays out later in the film).

There are also many scenes of her riding her motor scooter through town, shopping at various stores and so on, many of which feel like filler as if Assayas is buying time in trying to figure out how to marry all of the various elements together.

Alas, they don't gel, and aside from a few brief moments, the film's supernatural material isn't scary, the fashion shopping isn't fun, and Stewart -- as is often the case with her in various films -- looks like she'd rather be anywhere else but appearing in this flick, what with sporting her usual outward appearance of boredom meeting irritation meeting constipation.

I'm guessing I had the same look on my face (minus the stopped up latter condition) while watching this thing play out, hoping it would ultimately somewhat come altogether and make sense. It doesn't, and when you end up wanting to check your text messages while watching a film that features a lot of exactly that sort of activity, you know it failed in completing the editing side of the brainstorming process. "Personal Shopper" will have you wanting a refund of your purchase. It rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed March 13, 2017 / Posted March 17, 2017


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