Kristen Stewart stuns in the haunting “Personal Shopper”

It has long been apparent that Kristen Stewart is a future Academy Award winner, not just a surefire nominee one day. Part of the double edged sword that you have with her output is that post Twilight, she’s been almost determined to stick to challenging independent fare. Cinephiles are obviously lucking out, but a lot of her work is flying under the radar. As such, she remains on the outside looking in, for now. This week, another indie featuring a stupendous turn from Stewart hits theaters in Personal Shopper. It’s a flawed film and not for everyone, but she is absolutely great in it. As such, if she keeps showcasing her talents in this way, it might take time before the Academy notices. At the same time, if these smaller movies continue to have top notch Stewart performances in them, Oscar could take heed anyway before long.

The film is a ghost story of sorts. Maureen Cartwright (Stewart) is young American living in Paris and works as a celebrity’s personal shopper. She also seems to have the ability to communicate with spirits, much like her recently deceased twin brother did. She functions as a sort of ghost whisperer in her spare time, seeking to connect with her brother. When she starts to receive messages from an unknown source, Maureen begins trying to figure out if they’re from him. I won’t say where it goes next, but at times this is a genuinely unsettling flick. Olivier Assayas writes and directs, while the rest of the cast, in addition to Stewart, includes Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, David Bowles, Charles Gillibert, Christina Konstantinidis, Pascal Rambert, Benjamin Biolay, Nora von Waldstätten, and more. Mostly though, it’s just Stewart. Cinematography comes from Yorick Le Saux. This is a deliberate film, one anchored by Stewart and her performance.

Stewart anchors this movie with one of her best turns ever. Often, it’s just here on the screen. The pace is glacial at times, testing your patience, but Stewart always pulls you through. Re-teaming with Assayas after the stronger Clouds of Sils Maria, this is much more of a passion project. Horror fans won’t find it scary enough, while indie cinema diehards may not fully know what to make of it either. It’s overall a film that I think is successful and would recommend, but a lot of that is due to Stewart. She’s a captivating presence throughout. A sequence on a train with her just texting is somehow made riveting. Very few actresses could pull that off, but she does.

To see how this stacks up, here is actually how I would rank her ten best performances so far:

10. Equals
9. In the Land of Women
8. Still Alice
7. Into the Wild
6. Cafe Society
5. Welcome to the Rileys
4. Personal Shopper
3. Camp X-Ray
2. Clouds of Sils Maria
1. Adventureland

Honorable Mentions: Anesthesia, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Fierce People, On the Road, Panic Room, and The Runaways

On Friday, audiences heading to art houses will be able to take in Stewart’s work first hand when Personal Shopper opens. It’s not for everyone, but fans of her will enjoy this whole new side of her. It’s dark and unique, but in a way that almost feels like the next logical step for the actress. Again, she’ll eventually end up making a play during the awards season, but until then, we have these performances to fuel the narrative that she’s quickly becoming overdue for a nomination. Stay tuned to see when it does happen for her. As stated before, it’s a matter of when, not if…

Be sure to check out Personal Shopper, opening in limited release this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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