Maureen (Kristen Stewart), an American in Paris, has a job that’s at once glamorous and frequently something of a grind: doing the shopping for a celebrity (Nora von Waldstatten) who cautions her not to try on any of the haute couture merchandise. Not that Maureen would probably want to anyway: She doesn’t seem like the type to fantasize about sashaying down a runway.
But then, most people would be surprised to learn that she dabbles in communicating with the dead. And that pastime has taken on an unexpected poignancy: Her twin brother, Lewis, has recently died, and she’d like nothing more than to get in touch with him.
Maureen suffers from the same heart condition that resulted in Lewis’ death, which reminds her of her own tenuous mortality. It also helps to unsettle her even more when she begins to receive messages on her smartphone from an ominous caller.
In her current state, it’s all too easy for Maureen to get freaked out, and the messages keep coming. Is someone from the other side really attempting to communicate with her? And if so, who?
“Personal Shopper” is a disappointment coming from writer-director Olivier Assayas, who also collaborated with Stewart on the 2014 film “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Assayas is among France’s most respected filmmakers, but just what he was attempting to do with this film is something of a mystery. Its debut at last year’s Cannes Film Festival prompted boos from the audience.
Stewart has her moments: When it comes to appearing shell-shocked, she has few equals, and she clearly has a screen presence that the camera loves. In films from “Panic Room” to “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” her performances have been spellbinding. But there’s little that she can do with an underdeveloped script.
About the only shocking thing about “Personal Shopper” is its perverse lack of thrills.
What “Personal Shopper” • 2½ stars out of four • Run time 1:45 • Rating R • Content Language, sexuality, nudity and a violent image • In English and French with English subtitles