Kristen Stewart is the surprising new upstart in my life of late. And I refuse, completely refuse, to take any grief about it. Her acting in Olivier Assayas’ movie The Clouds of Sils Maria was absolutely gobsmackingly good. Everything about Sils Maria surprised and startled me with just how good it was on every level. The story, the acting, the screenplay… just so good. And now, Olivier Assayas is bringing us another stunning movie with Kristen Stewart and I would argue that their sophomore effort is even better than their freshman home run. I will say this, that this movie isn’t going to be for everyone. And I want this to be clear, if you watch this movie, and decide it isn’t for you, then, please just let me know so I can remove you from my will. And after I remove you from my will, I will then remove you from my best friend list…
But why? Why would I watch a movie about a personal shopper for the love of all that’s good and holy? That sounds like the worst possible idea for a movie ever. I mean shopping? I’d rather have teeth pulled without Novocain. I mean really??!
This movie is a paranormal thriller for thinkers. And it’s a mind job at that. So, basically, because you are here – and that is what this site is all about – I really think the odds of your totally digging this movie are pretty high. Now, granted, I’d argue that about 30% of you didn’t get into Sils Maria, so I don’t know. But again… just don’t tell me if you don’t like it. TTTSSSSS! Stop. Don’t do it. I’ll ban you from the site. You think I’m kidding?!? hahaha.
Quick Spoiler Free Personal Shopper Overview
So, if you haven’t seen the film yet, the quick zero spoiler overview is that Maureen Cartwright is waiting. Her brother Lewis has recently passed away in the last couple months. And Maureen is waiting for a sign. Why? Because before he died, they promised to send each other a sign. Because Lewis? He was a medium… or likened himself to spiritualist of sorts anyway. So this whole movie is really about Maureen and her desire to hear from her brother from beyond. Obviously, this is just a super high level overview, but it is this strong strong desire to hear from the other side that sends Maureen into a tailspin. And it is deep into the bowels of this chaos that Kristen Stewart just shined.
Personal Shopper In Depth Discussion
So this is where I plan to dive super deep on this fantastic movie. I’ve already assumed I’ve sold you on watching the film. I mean, really? That was a seriously good pitch up there. Go watch it… bookmark this page, and then come back. K? Great. So now that we have the Personal Shopper novices out of the room, let’s delve to the brass tacks. Roll up your sleeves, cause dangit if we don’t have a ton of work to do with this little flick.
The movie starts out with Maureen getting dropped off at a big big old house in the suburbs of Paris. The gal driving Maureen (Kristen) out to the house doesn’t stay. Not only that, she makes a beeline out of there, like pronto. Eh?! What is going on here? And Maureen wanders about the empty house a bit. Why? What is Maureen doing there? And then she starts to hear noises in the creaky clackity place. And it one of my favorite moments in the entire movie, there’s a smear in the air, almost unnoticeable. And some sound? And Maureen can obviously feel the presence. But then that is it.
What is happening here?
Well, as we backtrack through the movie we realize that Maureen’s twin brother, Lewis, had a congenital heart condition that she also has. And in a fluke, freak accident, he has a massive heart attack, and dies. But before Lewis died he had made a pact with his twin that if either of them die that the other would try to communicate to the surviving twin. Right? So, Maureen is caught doing this personal shopping gig for a high profile celebrity. A job that she absolutely abhors. But here she is, waiting in Paris for her brother to reach out and communicate with her. Well, in order to give Lewis another shot, Maureen heads back to the house one more time. But this time, while curled up on the floor, she’s awakened by an apparition that vomits something and basically freaks her out to high heaven. Right? The spirit slashes her artwork and the table. And like a jack rabbit, Maureen boogies it out of there.
So what do we know at this point? Well, in Olivier Assayas’ world of the Personal Shopper, we know for a fact that ghosts exist. This isn’t a question. (Or is it… we’ll get to variations of theories at the bottom of this post…) We see Lewis(?), we see floating glasses get dropped and break, we see phantasms, we are told very clearly that ghosts exist in this world. Right? But this isn’t a standard ghost thriller, or even a horror flick. Nothing about Personal Shopper fits into a clearly identifiable film category. (Which is why this movie is so so good.) The deeper you dive into this movie the more lost you will get. I know, because I’ve already watched it twice and sketched possible solutions to the various details and possibilities and I am only getting more confused the deeper I go!
Our other important thread to track as this movie goes is that of the World of Kyra – the model and personal shopping boss. Apparently Kyra is narcissistic selfish scion of our new social media world. And she is important, and knows it. And although Maureen hates her job she stays because she is just waiting for Lewis. No other reason. And it is during one visit to Kyra’s apartment that she meets a German named Ingo. Now Ingo is a speed bump in this world of the Personal Shopper because most of the movie happens with Kristen Stewart by herself. And it is this aloneness that makes the movie soar. And it is when she crashes into a few of these other characters that occasionally inhabit the movie with her that we realize just how bereft of characters this movie really is.
Ingo, back to our Ingo character. Right. We learn very quickly that Ingo is waiting to talk to Kyra because she wants to break up with him. But you know what? He’s not really keen on being broken up with after two years. And yet, he doesn’t love her… Ok. So in one thread we have a relationship that Maureen is having with the spirit world. And in the other we have Kyra and this dysfunctional relationship that she is having both with Maureen and also Ingo the boyfriend. Got it.
And soon after this meeting in Kyra’s apartment Maureen starts getting texts from an unidentified person. Huh. And at first, they are playful. Lighthearted banter type texts. And then very very quickly Maureen starts to wonder, out loud even, about whether or not they are coming from Lewis. So Maureen shows all her cards very early on by asking if this is Lewis. And yet, in the background, the texter tells her nothing. They just continue their playful inquiry and intriguing questions. And yet, the person on the other side of the text knows a whole lot about Maureen. That she’s going to England. That she back in Paris. What she is doing where. They even push her to do things that cause her fear and worry.
Can I stop here a moment and point something out? Kristen Stewart’s main co-star on this film was an iPhone. Did you realize this? No one else holds a candle to the amount of air time given to her iPhone. Which was really really innovative. The conversations she had through her phone that came and went and came back again were really really riveting. Like surprisingly so. And in the back of my mind I was like – I have seen this played out before… when?!? And that was when I realized that there was a short film that I adored a couple years ago called Green Dot. I enjoyed it so much I met with Alex Mann, the creator of Green Dot and interviewed him. It is so relevant, I figured, heck, let’s drop the short film here and you can tell me if it isn’t relevant:
No? Come on. Ok so, yes, you are welcome. You are too kind. No really, stop. I even reached out to the creator of Green Dot Alex Mann to get his thoughts on Personal Shopper, but he hasn’t seen it yet. But that will be interesting once he does see it.
Anyway… the question on our hands right now is, WHO IS TEXTING MAUREEN? Is it Lewis? Or is it Kyra maybe? Though the odds of her coming out of her myopic selfishness for even a millisecond is near nil. If it’s not Lewis? So yeah, it’s got to be Ingo. I mean, we haven’t been introduced to too many other characters. So if it’s Ingo… what the heck? What is he up to?
Olivier Assayas then brings us in close and just right hooks us. I mean, up until this point we have a subtle thriller with some ghost undertones happening. But then, Maureen returns from shopping in London to return a few things to her ever-the-psycho boss Kyra, and Maureen finds her dead. Violently killed, and laying in a pile of blood. WAIT WHAT?! This was a sedate, even pastoral, investigation into a woman’s mental health and the next thing I know we just wandered off reservation into slasher film? Was this the ghost that did this? Was it Maureen actually? What is happening here? And to make matters worse, Maureen is seeing throbbing and pulsing lights at the end of the hallway. And so Maureen runs for it.
One of the interesting reactions that I had was to immediately yell at the screen – DO NOT RUN! CALL THE POLICE! In any other movie I would have rooted for her to run. But because this movie is so realistic. So grounded in reality (even with the ghost bits) that I knew where this was going to go if she did run. And sure enough, Maureen is questioned by the police for her running. And when the expensive Cartier jewelry goes missing and Maureen finds the jewels in her apartment, Maureen immediately knows she has a massive massive problem on her hands.
And then, in one of the most dramatic segments of the movie, Maureen turns her phone on and she starts getting pummeled by text messages from her secret text intruder. And as they get more and more urgent the person begins to say things like, “ANSWER ME NOW OR I’M COMING.” “I’M HEADING THERE NOW.” “I’M STANDING OUTSIDE”… which gave me a chill running up my spine like no standard horror movie could ever accomplish. It was so fantastically well played.
So under the door she gets a message telling her to go to the hotel. But when she get there she finds nothing. And this is important. After Maureen leaves, we watch as no one leaves as well. We see the elevator open and no one get out. We see the front door of the hotel open, and the second door open, and then both close… suggesting someone else also left, but that person could not be seen. It was as if a ghost left the hotel too. Then after Lewis(?) leaves the hotel, we watch as Ingo arrives and also leaves. And as he walks out he runs into two cops and he begins shooting.
So now we know. Ingo was the iPhone Stalker. Ingo was the killer. And Ingo is now in jail… which leaves Maureen free from the obvious framing Ingo was conspiring against her. Right?
Personal Shopper Ending Overview
Which brings us to the ending that totally blew your mind. Right? Maureen heads to visit Lewis’ partner, who is now dating someone else. Right? And the two of them chat. Then when he leaves, Maureen is staring off into the distance when we see a guy looking out the window of the kitchen and then he drops a glass on the kitchen floor. This is presumably Lewis. And he is supposedly communicating with Maureen. But she is none the wiser. And with that Maureen heads off to Oman to visit her boyfriend friend guy thing. And as soon as she arrives she encounters a ghost who begins banging and trying to communicate with her via yes/no question answer type interactions. And so Maureen asks:
- Is it Lewis? 1 knock
- Are you at peace? Nothing
- Do you mean harm? Maybe knock?
- Is this coming from me? Knock
End Of Line.
WHAT? What did we just experience? And what does it mean? Well, I have a couple of theories that might fit. And I think we probably go through them in order to come to the most likely scenario that might explain what we just witnessed.
Personal Shopper Movie Theories –
There are a wide range of possibilities here. She could be insane. She could be dead. She could just be imagining things. Or should could be dealing with trauma from the death of a loved one. PTSD of sorts. Right? It could be anything really! But which one is it really?
Personal Shopper Theory 1 – Maureen is Insane\Traumatized
This one is explained by simply reading the title. Everything we viewed in this movie was from her vantage and from her perspective. And oh, by the way, she is the least credible narrator the world has ever seen in this theory. In her delusional state she imagines the ghosts. She is delusional about the ghosts, the murder, everything. And this could be caused by the traumatic death of her brother recently. It could be stress induced by the fact that she too might die suddenly.
Personal Shopper Theory 1 Flaws –
We see very physical results of her interactions with ghosts. We see claw marks on the walls and on the desk and her drawings. We also see dropped glasses and real interactions with real objects on the part of the ghosts. Right? But this too could be delusions. And yet we step out of her perspective and see things that she does not see. So not all of it could be explained by her being delusional.
Personal Shopper Theory 2 – Maureen is Dead Sixth Sense Style
This theory doesn’t make total sense on first blush. So bear with me for a moment and you will see. Now, we know that Maureen couldn’t have been dead the entire movie because she spoke with people and interacted with others (though rarely) as the movie progressed. Right? So that can’t quite work. But what if she was murdered in the hotel room after she was given the message? What if instead it being Lewis’ spirit that leaves it was Maureen’s spirit that leaves instead? Follows her out? (ok, I’m laughing too at this. But shush.) and then as the movie ends its her interacting with the spiritual world as her initial vantage of what death is like.
Personal Shopper Theory 2 Flaws –
All of it. This theory is so bad I almost didn’t include it. She wasn’t in the room when Ingo was there. So who killed her? Also, why would this be true if we watch her leave physically and then the doors? Eh? Shouldn’t she blur or something to indicate death? Dumb.
Personal Shopper Theory 3 – The Tell Theory
Throughout the movie we see a theme. And that is of a person that is in pain, that is exuding tells. She is just emitting pain. And radiating obvious vulnerability after the death of her brother. And we know that at least one, none dead, person saw this and took advantage of it. And his name was Ingo. Ingo used the knowledge of Maureen and Lewis in order to use her. We know that Ingo was determined not to leave his relationship with Kyra. So much so that he was going to kill her instead of being dumped. Ingo even used his knowledge of Maureen, and her frailty, and her desire to wear the clothes of her boss to his own advantage. So he kills Kyra. And then plants the Cartier jewelry at Maureen’s apartment. Right? We see this clearly.
But what if… now bear with me for a moment. What if, the spiritual world saw this too? What if Maureen was a novice spiritualist/medium. She even admitted that to us. Lewis was the real expert. And instead of it being Lewis that is communicating back with Maureen, what if it was just a spirit jacking Maureen around? When she was at the house initially, we don’t see Lewis. We see a female spirit vomiting. Right? We see a ghost communicating with Maureen but that was decidedly not Lewis.
Then we jump ahead to the end, we watch as a male spirit creepily walks through the kitchen, disappear, pick up a glass and drop it. Who’s to say that was Lewis? We never saw a picture of Lewis. And if you look through the entire list of actors, none of them are credited to a character named Lewis. None. So, whoever was in that kitchen… could be anyone. Could be a random ghost. Heck, it could have been a burglar with a fishing rod and fishing line messing with the glass! hahaha.
So now we head off to Oman. And we can reevaluate this experience with Maureen and this spirit. Instead of it being her brother finally communicated to her from the dead with distinct yeses and nos, instead we have a ghost that sees Maureen is searching for a spirit, and takes an opportunity to mess with her, just like Ingo did.
Personal Shopper Movie Final Thoughts
I actually really like the theory where Maureen dies in the hotel, but the timeline and the math just doesn’t add up. Can’t seem to make it work. And the movie doesn’t really even hint at that conclusion. I do think we are seeing malevolent spirits messing with Maureen in Ingo style and fashion. They know she’s vulnerable. They know she has been messing around in the spirit world. She’d be an easy mark. And voila.
I don’t know, what other theories do you guys have about this amazing movie? There have to be about a billion other ways to view this film.
Edited by, CY