BY ROGER THOMAS
Do you believe in ghosts? I am actually neutral on the subject; there may be ghost or maybe not. I have never had an experience with an apparition, though “The Conjuring” really scared me. Some people say that Christians should not believe in ghosts. When someone says that to me I remind them that King Saul went to the Witch of Endor to ask her to raise the ghost of Samuel in the Old Testament. Then in the New Testament there is a scene when Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection. Jesus says, “I am not a ghost.” Christ could have ended centuries of debates if He had simply said, “I am not a ghost because ghost do not exist.” Case closed, except that is not what he said. “I am not a ghost” almost implies that there are ghosts.
“Personal Shopper” is a film about two things: the profession of a personal shopper and her hobby of seeking out spirits.
The personal shopping scenes may appeal to some more than others. All the title-character’s clients are rich women who have very specific taste. These moments detracted from the more interesting plot-points of the film.
Kristen Stewart, the heroine of the “Twilight” teen vampire films, plays the shopper, Maureen Cartwright. Her number one hobby, when she is not picking out expensive outfits, is seeking places where she might have an encounter with a resident of the spiritual realm.
Are ghosts real or not? Maureen believes absolutely that they are real. The film answers the question of a spiritual reality early in the film, but Maureen wants more than just an encounter with any phantom; she wants to be haunted by her deceased twin brother.
In the midst of personal shopping and ghost hunting, Maureen also begins to get anonymous texts. Is this her brother, a client, someone she has met, or someone she does not even know?
When Maureen was getting texts, I did find myself wondering how a ghost would be able to type text messages. Even with my questions, the text mystery lingers for much of the film and ultimately becomes the best plot-line of the three except for a weak climax.
The film has a few strengths. Stewart does as much as can be done with the Maureen character. There are also some nice shots of Paris and other parts of Europe as Maureen delivers her wares to her clients. In the beginning of the text messages, the film does create a curious situation; I, for one, was intrigued until it became tiresome.
The greatest flaw of the film is that there are no real thrills. The film is advertised as a thriller but nothing on screen startled me even in the slightest way. I was not expecting the thrills of “The Conjuring,” but I, at least, thought there would be something that intrigued me.
I suppose the best praise I can offer the film is that it resurrected a memory I had not considered for decades. Years ago I was having a conversation with the mother of my college roommate. I have forgotten how we got on that subject but I will never forget what she said, “When you lose someone you love, sometimes you miss them so much you just want to see them one more time, even if they appear as a ghost. A floating spirit would be enough.” At that time I had not lost as many people as I have now. I completely understand what my friend’s mom was proclaiming.
“Personal Shopper,” even with all its many weaknesses, reminded me of the conversation nearly thirty-five years ago. Like Maureen in the film and the mother of my friend, occasionally some of us may actually hope for a haunting.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.