The trailer for Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper is all about acceleration.

And for good reason: When a film’s starting point seems to be a character study following the lonely life of shopping for the stars, and its final destination is a psychological murder mystery, all by way of tragic-loss ghost story, things have got to move quickly. That quality of ceaselessly increasing tempo is observable on a literal level in the trailer, as Hollywood’s sulk laureate Kristen Stewart goes from moping through the rainy streets of Paris on a shopping-bag laden scooter, to weeping fretfully on a train as it rolls through the city gloom, to staring anxiously out the passenger window of a car speeding through the desert. This story has a lot of ground to cover.

The natural hazard of such relentless pacing is that story elements may have to be deployed with the subtlety of road signs. “Kyra was murdered,” Steward flatly informs the audience, lest the blood-soaked sheets on her employer’s bed were not sufficient to indicate foul play. “I can’t tell whether or not I’m going crazy,” she confides in voiceover, after repeatedly professing to other characters her belief that her dead brother is carving cryptic messages into the furniture. The trailer seems to have more plot than it can gracefully impart. This over explanation becomes all the more glaring in light of Stewart’s strong performance. The muted freneticism with which she wipes away a tear or the stunted start of her shoulders at a sudden loud noise paint a very clear picture of a psyche frayed to tearing. Stewart is good at playing emotional distress (it’s kind of her thing), and that undeniable talent makes the trailer’s naked exposition conspicuously unnecessary.

Assayas, who also wrote the script, shared the Best Director award with Cristian Mungiu at Cannes last year. Personal Shopper went on to screen at TIFF and NYFF. Assayas’ last collaboration with Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria (which he also wrote and directed), was nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2014. MM

Personal Shopper opens in theaters March 10, courtesy of IFC Films. 

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