Personal Shopper (2016)

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Food: Continuing my Atlanta adventure, I spent one evening at “The Family Dog” restaurant which was a sports bar, with live music later in the evening and Grateful Dead themed murals on the wall. I enjoyed their ceaser salad with salmon and got the Elysian Space Dust IPA, which is a hoppy and zesty beer. I recommend for a casual night out, where you can hear yourself talk and won’t feel overcrowded, but has a vibrant atmosphere.

Film: “Personal Shopper” is Olivier Assayas’s film that followed “The Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014) and helped to solidify him as a filmmaker, receiving several nominations at Cannes as well as Palme D’Or nominations for the film, and for Kristen Stewart as Best Actress upon its release in 2016.  It got overwhelming praise among critics, but was simultaneously booed at the Cannes initial screening.

The mixed reactions that came from this film come from its complicated premise and slow moving pace. Some viewers found it beguiling, absorbing, and mesmerizing. Others were not as taken by a film about ghosts. Kristen Stewart, also, has always faced muddled reception about her performances, her infamous mannerisms and frown is oft either loved or hated, nothing in between. Here, she gives a subdued, but ignited performance as a woman named Maureen at a very strange time in her life. She is a personal shopper for a difficult and unsavory celebrity, marching from place to place, grabbing items for her to wear and dropping them off. She hates her job, and it feels like she is just wading through a bleak existence. Her twin brother has died of a heart attack caused by an ill-fated defect that she also possesses. They also are both mediums and had promised each other that whoever passes first, will send the other a sign from the “other side.”

We enter the story with Maureen wandering through a house ominously waiting to feel the presence of her brother, Lewis. We learn that the home used to belong to him, and his girlfriend is now attempting to sell it. She is unable to detect him fully and we get the sense that Maureen is growing increasingly frustrated with the silence.

She begins to receive text messages from an unknown source, and her experiences with the supernatural start to grow more intense. She is not convinced that the ghosts that are present are, in fact, her brother. The film establishes a commentary on how technology can impact our grieving process. It calls to mind the news that came out just this past week that text messages from February got lost in the ether, and suddenly came through a whole nine months later. Some people were deeply unsettled when they received messages from exes, or people whom they believed had “ghosted them” in the modern dating context (stopped responding as a way of ending the relationship). However, the darkest and most jolting outcome of this was when people began to receive text messages from their relatives who had since passed away.

Grieving is limitless, and so much of the difficulty comes from the lack of closure. Many people experience the inability to let go, and here, Maureen has believes that her last communication with her brother has yet to come, and that desperation can linger a long time. The film is less about ghosts in the paranormal-activity-horror-movie sense, and focuses more directly on how the belief in an afterlife can and will affect the grieving process.

The film crawls a bit too slowly, and despite popular opinion, I felt like Stewart’s performance was drab. Almost from the get-go, I was uninterested in seeing more of her journey and it felt like I was willing myself to care. She felt estranged and grimy. She stuttered through her lines, and they felt forged, emotionless, and self-conscious. You could convince me that this was her character, but seeing her all too often giving the same type of execution leads me to believe otherwise.

All in all, it’s a fine film. Beautifully shot, and achieves haunting moments, but I do not feel inclined to support all the hype.



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