1491443324863 - Movie Review: Personal Shopper – Stewart escapes the Twilight zone
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Movie Review: Personal Shopper – Stewart escapes the Twilight zone

PERSONAL SHOPPER  (M, 105 mins) Directed by Olivier Assayas  ★★★★ 

You might just reassess your opinion of much-maligned actress Kristen Stewart after watching her performance in this stylish and seriously unsettling thriller.

The former Twilight star is a mesmeric presence as the Paris-based “assistant” of the title.  While her Maureen spends her days making jewellery choices and clothes shopping for rising star Kyra (Nora Van Waldstatten), her evening’s are spent “communing” with a spectral presence that may or may not be her recently deceased twin.  The pair shared a heart  problem, but any hopes Maureen had of avoiding the “intense physical effort and extreme emotions” her doctor advises her against are shattered by her “monster” of a boss and the increasing frequency of mysterious texts.

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A joint winner of the director’s prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival French filmmaker Olivier Assayas’ psychological drama is an atmospheric chiller that evokes memories of the best of Lynch, Hitchcock, De Palma and Argento (as well as coming across like a delightfully understated companion piece to Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon). 

A movie that could teach the Paranormal Activity producers a thing or two about how to make things that go bump in the night freaky, Personal Shopper also reminds one of 2001’s The Others with its increasingly dread-filled air of mystery and intrigue. Much of the credit for that has to go to writer-director Assayas, who cleverly keeps the audience guessing as to what’s happening and throws in the occasional inspired editing choice, just when you don’t want the action or focus shifted.  

Re-teaming with her Clouds of Silas Maria helmer, it is Stewart though that sells both the film’s spiritualism and sartorial excesses (although amusingly her character generally dresses fairly frumpily). It is an eye-catching performance you’d more expect from Scarlett Johansson or early Winona Ryder, but it is also a reminder why the 27 year-old actress is so popular as a muse for a variety of directors.

Personal Shopper opens in New Zealand cinemas on April 13.