Personal Shopper (film)

I read a horrible review of this film and another glowing review so I thought it was worth a punt if it could be that divisive. After seeing it, twice, I must admit I agree with the latter review. I should disclose that I’m also a fan of Kristen Stewart, I think she is one of the best actresses of our time.

Personal Shopper is a complicated piece exploring ideas of longing, desires, searching and at the same time being imprisoned by them. It plays out from the idea of a personal shopper: a person that occupies neither the world of celebrity nor an average person; a person that sits in the middle accessing both worlds, like a medium, with the spiritual world.

Kristen Stewart is a young American woman working as a personal shopper for a celebrity in Paris. Stewart glides around the most glamourous stores to pick up items for her high profile celebrity whom she hardly sees. The tasks themselves are mundane and involve lots of travelling around. She is somewhat envious of the life of glamour and she dares to try on the clothes from time to time but it’s not what she wants deep inside. She wants to be free and not be bound by any corporate ideal.

She spends the rest of her time looking for a sign from her late brother. He was a medium and could talk to spirits when he was alive. She wants him to give her a sign that there is another world out there, a spiritual world. What it would mean for her if this other world did or didn’t exist is not clear in the film and I don’t think she even knows herself. At the same time, Stewart has unshakable skepticism as to her brother’s ability as a medium. When the widowed sister-in-law describes how he used to talk to spirits from biblical times Stewart tries to dismiss it as an impossible lie. Stewart visits her late brother’s house in Paris to see whether his spirits will emerge, then has a frightening experience when something other than her brother’s spirit appears. Stewart’s personal shopper job ends when she comes across a stalker, whom she falsely believes could be her brother talking to her from the spiritual world.

Personal Shopper captures the hollowness of our hyper consumer market: the constant longing and desire created by the bombardment of advertising. At the same time we are never fully satisfied and continue to search for the next amazing experience while dismissing our current life as boring or meaningless; trapped in a constant state of desire. The film has a cautionary tale: Stewart’s aimless pursuits do not bring her any happiness or satisfaction and they actually put her in danger; as if to say: be careful what you wish for.

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