Quickly, now, because honestly all I want to do right now (at 12:27 AM on Friday night/Saturday morning) is have a beer (or two), eat some Lay’s BBQ chips, watch Real Time with Bill Maher, and see if the two antacids I just swallowed do anything to alleviate the flatulence I’ve been dealing with for the past 48 hours.
I saw Personal Shopper. It was interesting. It was good. It demands a second viewing, but in a way that makes me feel like I might be a bit disappointed in that second viewing, not that I won’t be thoroughly entertained, but that I won’t get the answers that I seek. But isn’t that kind of the point of this movie? Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, a medium/personal shopper hunting for some sign that her brother’s spirit lives on even after his death. And (well, I guess, I can’t really talk about it too much because if I do I might be giving something away to the few people who read this blog and have yet to see the movie [which is probably, like, everyone who’s reading this because I don’t think it was Hot Button film to see on the Friday it came out, and also, it’s not in wide release, yet, I think])… But basically the ending isn’t one of those cut and dry Hollywood things, but you knew that going in if you knew who directed this — and if you didn’t I’ll tell you: Olivier Assayas, the man behind Clouds of Sils Maria (also starring Kristen Stewart, as well as Juliette Binoche) and Other Films I Haven’t seen (starring, most notably, Something In The Air , Carlos , and Summer Hours ) but I do want to see.
As was the case with Clouds, I throughly appreciated the artistry of Assayas’ Personal Shopper, but something just didn’t quite connect for me on an emotional level. There isn’t a moment of either of these two films where I find myself not invested, or disinterested, but when the credits finally roll, I kind of find myself missing the main emotional crux of it all (as is the case with Clouds) or not quite having the life experience to truly feel it (as is the case with Personal Shopper). See, I’ve never really Lost somebody. The only person I’ve been close to who has died was my grandfather, who passed away from lung cancer when I was about 14. I saw him sparingly during the time of my life when I could make memories (I lived in NY as a toddler, and he lived in NJ, so I saw him frequently then, but otherwise maybe twice a year?) and when I did see him he was wholly consumed by the carcinoma, which I regret to inform I did not fully comprehend the magnitude of at the time. (I could go into a whole she-bang about how, now, I cite him as my first artistic muse, but that’s for another, not-so-late-on-a-Friday-after-another-demoralizing-work-week time.) But anyway, the weight of his death didn’t hit me, probably, until I was in college or so, far past the time that I could even consider him as a spirit (and also I’m far too cynical of a human being to believe in spirits [although I avoid horror movies like the plague because they make me believe in such unbelievable things and then I get terrified at night]). So while I can certainly sympathize with Maureen losing her brother, I had a tough time empathizing, and the difference there, to me, has always been the key when it comes to art truly connecting with someone.
That isn’t to say though that I don’t dislike watching Stewart struggle with these emotions. I remember the days when I used to ceaselessly mock her (oh, High School) for being Bella in all those Twilight movies (man, being someone on the flip side of that when you were a teen was a pain in the goddamn ass). But then she had her whole reversal of, “Oh, wait, I’m actually this stupidly talented actress, and now that everyone knows me as an actress I’m just literally going to do whatever the fuck I want and it’s going to be awesome.” And she is awesome, and she is the best female performance of the year so far (and probably a close second behind Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out who does SO much in his role with so much less [but also more? ah.. too much for now] with which to work). She was enticing in the otherwise remarkably bland Café Society. She was great in Still Alice, too, though obviously shadowed by Julianne Moore’s unbelievable performance. She was my second favorite Actress in a (True) Supporting Role last year for Certain Women (only behind Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea because cumong, man, that’s just not fair). I even almost saw Equals and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk because of her. And she’s definitely found something with Assayas here, where they can explore a character’s resolute reticence for hours and make it enjoyable nonetheless, and I hope this allows her to branch out and work with some other auteurs. God, I’d love to see her in like… I dunno, I mean, obviously a PTA (Paul Thomas Anderson) movie, but also maybe in a good David O. Russell film, like an actually good one? Or I’d love to see her work with Alex Garland? (Ex Machina, the upcoming [which will be really good] Annihilation.)
But I dunno. Something just didn’t connect here. I’m running out of things to say now, which is fine. This is a very pretty movie. There’s this great Kubrickian shot that comes at the climax that is altogether fascinating but puzzling. The camera is always moving, in some way, whether that’s in a pan, or tracking in. There are several montages of Stewart on her Peugeot scooter, which is cool, and this super elegant shot of her naked as well. She also wears a bunch of thrift-store, baggy sweatshirts, which is kind of interesting but also stylish for a personal shopper.
I like this movie. But it still kind of feels like a puzzle. But maybe it’s a puzzle where I opened the box and did everything I could with the pieces available and now I just have to look at this, like, 90% finished puzzle and appreciate it for what it is and stop asking for more.
(FWIW: I’m hoping to write a real review of this over at PopMatters, but we’ll see what I do this weekend.)