A lot has been written and said about Olivier Assayas‘ latest movie Personal Shopper. From being booed at Cannes, yet winning an award for best directing for Assayas, through the high praise from the film critics, to the mixed acceptance among the public. I’ve read it all. And since it had Kristen Stewart in the lead, whom I hated since the Twilight days, I was hoping it was the people at Cannes that booed the film, that were actually right. But man, was I wrong. I absolutely loved this film and I owe a huge apology to Ms. Stewart.
If you’re anything like me, I am sure you will find at least one actor or actress that you used to hate (or perhaps still do) for no real reason – and by that I mean, ‘hate’ might be a pretty strong word here, since we’re talking of a person you don’t actually know and you shape your opinion on them only based on their public appearance or their acting skills – so merely something they do for living. Which is not very profound is it? But such things happen to the best of us, and as childish as it is, I know you have one actor or actress like that, too – or you definitely had growing up before you became the wise person you are today (congratulations on that!).
I for one, used to absolutely hate Kristen. I thought the Twilight movies are brilliant only in case they are parodies on vampire movies which was the only explanation to me for those ridiculous stories AND the acting performances. Not just that of Ms. Stewart whom seemed to have only one expression and that being the “I-think-I’m-gonna-throw-up-right-now” but also that of Robert Pattinson. So, I decided these films must have been just greatly misunderstood and taken seriously, which I thought was sad. ‘Cause as parodies they work brilliantly! So fun! (Just please, don’t try to prove me otherwise or I will have to lose my faith in people again.)
Anyway, those days are long gone – for me and for Kristen Stewart, too. I’ve learned that actors are just normal people like you and I, with feelings and who might be pretty much feeling as lost in their lives as you probably are from time to time. Or they simply might be doing something they despise to get a shot at something they actually want to do. Now, haven’t we all done that before?
Kristen Stewart definitely belongs into the indie movies not to the Hollywood blockbusters where she doesn’t really have anything to play and therefore ends up with that one look that is really not pleasant to watch. But give her a complicated psychological role and you will be absolutely astonished. Because it is especially her performance that makes Personal Shopper so great.
I was pretty impressed by her acting skills when I saw her in Camp X-Ray two years back, where I thought she’s done a great job. Then I was even more impressed when I’ve heard she won the César for Sils Maria, her previous Assayas collaboration. I even really enjoyed her in Woody Allen’s Café Society and started to think she is turning into one of the most interesting young actresses out there. So, her intense performance in Personal Shopper did not come as such a surprise anymore.
I loved Personal Shopper. And not just for Kristen’s performance. I loved everything about it, though her presence on the screen was definitely one of the main reasons. She was hypnotic. Real. And so relatable. She was even sexy when she was supposed to be, a quality I’ve never seen in her before, with a dark wicked twist to it which was as haunting as the rest of the film.
Personal Shopper has a great spooky overall atmosphere and is very nerve-wrecking. And I hate movies like that. Not because I think they’re bad or something (though a lot of them are) but because I simply hate to be scared. I really really do. I simply do not find anything inspiring or enriching about being scared. I think there is enough opportunities to experience the fear in our own lives and it is not exactly a feeling I enjoy, therefore do not feel the need to create it when it’s not necessary.
But this movie is a bit different. Not that I did not get scared, I did – and hated it!! It truly is nerve-wrecking as hell. But there is just more to this film than a simple scare. After all – it is coming from Olivier Assayas not Wes Craven, so it is a little more sophisticated than that.
I think that what most people miss, and therefore end up not liking it, is the fact, that above all, this is a deeply personal story of Maureen. That under the mystery/thriller storyline about ghosts and supernatural phenomenons it’s a story of a girl who seems lost within her own life, searching for deeper meaning, waiting for something to happen, so she could not only move on, but perhaps to actually start living her own life. It’s about mourning a loss of a beloved one and trying to cope with it – even if in a very unusual way in this case. She is vulnerable and lonely. And bored. And it’s that theme of loneliness and boredom in today’s over-tech world and the search for her own identity that stroke me most and that keeps haunting me. Not the ghosts.
So for me, it is above all a great psychological movie which together with the overall spooky and mysterious atmosphere, makes it one of a kind movie. A masterpiece I even dare to say. Did I get the ending? No, not really.. Are there any unanswered questions or things that doesn’t seem to make much sense? Of course there are. But that only adds to its appeal.
There are just so many layers to this film and Olivier Assayas, whom I had the pleasure to meet when working for the Prague Film Festival, has done a great job here and deserves all the credit for his directing skills – as psychological ghost movie is definitely not something I have seen before. And to actually make it a winner in both of these genres all at once is quite an accomplishment. Plus it is visually great, too.
I can guarantee this film will stay with you for a while and haunt you – but luckily in a very good way!
Oh and a hidden treat for me was to see Olivia Ross, whom I’ve seen every day on set of Knightfall last year, a tv series that is to hit your tv screens this fall and that was shot in Prague, in one of the small roles! Such a pleasant surprise 🙂
But back to the topic – I honestly cannot wait for more Olivier Assayas films to come – and hopefully mor collaborations with Kristen, too. Because, it just seems to me, that he got her just right. I don’t think she ever felt comfortable in the Hollywood movies to be honest. While here, she can be herself and is just where she belongs to. And I hope she will continue this way and do more movies like this.
P.S. I just love the poster – as spooky and mysterious and beautiful as the film! It really makes it justice.