PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Personal Shopper shops around for a genre and a premise, never quite deciding on either.
That level of ambivalence and ambiguity doesn't ruin it exactly – it's certainly engaging enough when it begins – but it seems to build to a destination at which it never actually arrives or a situation that never, well, materializes.
And it travels on its cloudy journey as a horror drama, as a psychological mystery, as a supernatural fantasy, as a ghost story, and as a "thriller."
Note the quotation marks, a punctuational way of saying that what thrills there are are muted indeed.
Kristen Stewart stars as Maureen Cartwright, the title character, an American who serves in that capacity for a celebrity fashion model (Nora von Waldstatten), procuring clothing and accessories for her from the fashion underworld of Paris.
Maureen is also a medium, it just so happens, as was her recently deceased twin brother, Lewis, with whom she made a pact: that whichever of them died first would try to make contact from the other side if it turned out that there was an afterlife.
And she's pretty sure that he is at the moment trying to do just that.
So to help things along in her search for closure, she visits the location where he passed away.
But are her spiritual experiences authentic or is she just imagining them?
And who is it who keeps texting her without identifying him- or herself?
French writer-director Olivier Assayas (Paris je T'aime, Something in the Air, Demonlover, Summer Hours), who collaborated with Kristen Stewart in 2014 on Clouds of Sils Maria, is confident enough at the helm to go in several directions at once.
But he raises a lot more questions than he's either prepared to answer or interested in exploring, delivering a quietly contemplative film that's initially intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying.
Stewart is a capable actress but not necessarily a demonstrative one; that is, she communicates her inner turmoil with a minimum of effort and effect. Consequently, the portrait she's painting isn't nearly disquieting enough.
Yet Assayas depends on her doing the heavy lifting, which she does dutifully but without the kind of flourishes that would pay off those in attendance.
We look to the film for insights into loneliness or solitude or otherworldly longing, but come away untouched by such concerns.
And once we get used to the melancholy mood and studied eeriness, we long for incidents and explanations or inferences that are in decidedly short supply.
So we'll accessorize 2 stars out of 4. The genre-defying, premise-denying Personal Shopper registers as disappointing because we find ourselves wishing there were wholesale changes in store.
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