Kristen Stewart reunites with her Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper, which finds the accomplished actress portraying another assistant to a celebrity. This time, the boss lady is Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), a Paris-based supermodel who can’t be bothered to select her own outfits – that’s the sort of thing she leaves Maureen (Stewart) to handle while she’s jetsetting around the world. The job sucks, but it affords Maureen plenty of freedom to pursue other interests, like trying to make contact with the spirit of her recently deceased brother.
When Maureen begins receiving mysterious text messages from an unknown sender who seems to know her every move, the film posits this as a mystery, and Assayas devotes an excruciating amount of screentime to Maureen’s iPhone. Watching her exchange messages with an unseen party is meant to build tension, as this stranger encourages her to explore some of her darker desires, but there’s nothing compelling about the banality of this storytelling device. And although Maureen can’t seem to put together the identity of her new digital pen pal – who at one point leaves her a key to a hotel room – audiences should have no trouble solving the case long before the film gets around to it.
Stewart is just as reliable as ever, turning in a gripping performance despite the bland material she’s given here. Maureen is the very portrait of grief, and watching her struggle not to succumb to its weight feels incredibly authentic and relatable. But as a ghost story that’s low on scares and a thriller whose thrills are almost nonexistent, Personal Shopper does little more than meander, much like an apparition that haunts an old abandoned house.