Kristen Stewart continues to prove that she’s a star. Not a movie marquee star, like she was in the “Twilight” series. More of a commanding presence that, with the right filmmaker, can give a masterful performance. Director Olivier Assayas unlocked our second great Kristen Stewart performance this year with “Personal Shopper.” He previously worked with Stewart on “Clouds of Sils Maria,” a performance where she re-announced to the world that yes, she is one of our most promising actresses.
“Personal Shopper” reconfirms these notions with her performance as Maureen, a personal shopper for a celebrity by day and a medium by night. Maureen becomes more and more entrenched in her work as a medium as she believes she is communicating with her twin brother, who died of a genetic heart condition. Not since “Birth” have we witnessed a performance that so expertly depicts a woman frightened by her own conviction in their perception of the afterlife.
What sticks out about Stewart’s performance is how she sells Maureen’s extreme faith. This isn’t a faith she needs to sell anyone one. This is a deep, abiding faith that she can communicate with her brother that scares even her. Many ghost stories must convince the protagonist, along with the audience, that the supernatural is real. As a medium, Maureen knows full well she lives among spirits. The movie is about the fear that comes when one goes further and further into the abyss. One sign of life after life propels Maureen further and further in the spirit world.
Two scenes stand out as showcases for how Stewart commands the audience’s attention. The first is on her way to and from London. Maureen receives a series of texts from an unknown number. Judging from a recent encounter with the afterlife, Maureen takes this as a sign, possibly from her brother. Over the course of this trip, Maureen communicates with the unknown. Her fingers twitch as she formulates a response. She’s as curious and scared as we are. This apprehension emboldens her to go forward.
Another watershed moment comes as Maureen finds herself in Kyra’s (Nora von Waldstatten) apartment house-sitting alone. She takes all the dresses she has purchased for Kyra out for a spin in the room. The scene continues to escalate. Despite being forbidden, Maureen can’t seem to be bothered to care. This isn’t the twitchy girl from before. This is someone who feels at ease. Communicating with the dead has made her feel more alive. Her contempt for her job and her place in the workforce of the mortal world show more clearly. Stewart uses her strut and her physicality to illustrate this.
Our final moments find Maureen racked with tears as she once again communicates with the dead. Slowly but surely, we’ve seen Maureen pushed to her limits. However, she persists. Kristen Stewart’s trademark cool composure vanishes. We’re wrecked along with her.
Kristen Stewart continues to prove she’s one of our most unique and specific talents. For “Clouds of Sils Maria,” we got to see Stewart rack up many critics awards while also taking home the Cesar award. It’s a shame that this performance hasn’t seen the same level of success with the precursors. May more future revelatory performances come from her partnership with Olivier Assayas.
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| ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
| PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
| ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
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| ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT | LIVE ACTION SHORT |