“PERSONAL SHOPPER” My rating: B+ (Opens March 31 at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts)
105 minutes | MPAA rating: R
The problem with most ghost stories is that they’re bent 0n explaining.
The unexplainable is far creepier.
Which brings us to Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” his second collaboration with actress Kristen Stewart (after the evocative if somewhat off-putting “Clouds of Sils Maria”) and one of the eeriest ghost stories in recent memory.
Stewart plays Maureen, a young American woman whose life is split along a rather dramatic fault line.
Professionally, she’s a personal shopper. Her boss, Kyra, is a rich (and spoiled) Paris-based jet-setting celebrity who always needs a new outfit for this photo session or that charity event. Kyra trusts her Girl Friday to buy or borrow just the right outfit for any occasion, which means that Maureen is always zooming around Paris on her moped, hitting the boutiques and fashion design studios on behalf of her employer.
But there’s a darker side to Maureen. Months earlier she lost her twin brother, Lewis, to a congenital heart condition — a condition that afflicts her as well (she’s been told to avoid physical and emotional heavy lifting).
Both Maureen and Lewis were psychics, and for years they had a pact that whoever died first would find a way to contact his/her sibling from the Great Beyond.
As the film begins Maureen is spending a night in the now-empty house Lewis shared with his wife, listening to every creak and groan as a possible missive from the hereafter.
While nothing happens on this particular evening, a few days later she will repeat the experiment with what can only be described as bone-chilling results. Assayas has staged a big reveal that will leave audiences breathless and covered in goosebumps.
Simultaneously, Maureen begins receiving anonymous texts from an individual (or is it a disembodied spirit?) who seems to know her exact whereabouts at any given moment. This mystery person encourages Maureen to break Kyra’s rules by trying on the impossibly expensive clothing she has collected. After all, what’s the point of being surrounded by all this luxury if you can’t partake?
Late in the proceedings, “Personal Shopper” takes a detour into 19th-century seances (apparently author Victor Hugo was big on the spirit world) and then, quite unexpectedly, into murder.