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Personal Shopper: A Ghost Story Done Right

October 18, 2017

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Personal Shopper is a neat little thriller that plays like a ghost story inside an arthouse film surrounded by mystery. I appreciated how director Olivier Assayas imbues the film with a relaxed tone that builds suspense while taking its time. Much like recent “horror” films like Spring, The Witch, It Comes at Night, The Invitation and The Gift it plays with mystery/horror tropes and combines them with sensitive themes of loss. Personal Shopper will alienate many but I loved its tone and patience.

Personal Shopper focuses on a personal shopper named Maureen (Kristen Stewart) who spends her days buying stuff for a very needy and often cantankerous celebrity. The work is unimportant and you can tell that Maureen only does it for the cash. On the side, she works as a medium of sorts and things get weird when she starts getting texts from someone who might be her twin brother who recently died of a heart attack. From there, the film never goes where you expect and builds to a somber conclusion that you will either appreciate or dislike (there is no middle ground with this film).

What I love most about Personal Shopper is how it balances being a ghost story while offering a reflection on loss. Some may see it as a “Kristen Stewart looks at a phone” film but I really enjoyed Stewart’s performance and the blending of mystery and truth. Assayas has found a way to capture Stewart’s introverted presence really well and after The Clouds of Sil Maria he knows her beats/style and trusts her enough to basically keep her onscreen for every second of this film.

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Personal Shopper represents a new(ish) wave of introspective horror that is either beloved or massively disliked. Personal Shopper and the films mentioned above don’t stick to the horror/mystery template and instead fuse various elements together. The results can be frustrating for unsuspecting horror hounds but they can be equally rewarding for people who embrace everything the horror genre has to offer. Films like this are changing the definition of the term “horror” and I love all the conversations surrounding the evolving genre.

If you are in the mood for a somber ghost story/mystery I totally recommend Personal Shopper. 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2017 3:45 pm

    I applaud originality and creativity, but this film was so pointless. What mystery could it talk about when it cuts off all the channels for it? It starts with one – the heroine’s brother and his ghost, and then it never finishes it or satisfactory but open-endedly. It picks up the murder of her employer, but it just leaves it there. It is a total disaster of a film.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      October 18, 2017 8:45 pm

      This seems quite the polarizing film–as are most arthouse horror (I’d say, anyway). So, I skipped this largely due to the star. But given your comments, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Neon Demon.

    • October 19, 2017 11:16 am

      I totally get what you are saying and I can see it as very frustrating and listless. I loved the journey and didn’t really care about the destination. I guess I am a sucker for arthouse pretentiousness in the guise of a ghost story.

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