I feel kind of dumb that I know very little about the J T Leroy ‘story,’ And I also have not seen he documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig which I hear is pretty comprehensive. This should be such an interesting story, so why then was I so bored by Justin Kelly’s ‘J. T. Leroy?’ we have Kristin Stewart here playing Samanatha Knoop, who was the ‘figure’ used by Laura Albert, who was the real author behind the book ‘Sarah.’ Stewart is perfectly cast as the bisexual character (I think nowadays they are non gender specific) and since the film is told from her point of view, Samantha is more humanized. Dern’s Laura Albert, though, while somewhat more fun to watch, veers close to a caricature. I did not really get a sense of any of the motivations for her actions. She’s just crazy and/or over the top, and why? I don’t really where the focus of the movie is, and after a certain point, I kind of stopped caring.
Is Kristen Stewart the new Gwyneth Paltrow? Well, only in the sense that they are both actresses whose public personas annoy me, but when I see them in movies, they make you forget about that and just marvel at how good actresses they are. Well, I have to admit that maybe my dislike of Stewart’s public image comes from nothing, just headlines I have read. But in any event, she is magnificent in ‘Personal Shopper,’ and I think she *is* the film and she adds to the film’s brilliance.
About five minutes into the film, the guy sitting behind me tapped my shoulder and asked ‘Is this ‘Personal Shopper?’ I said yes and he probably thought he went to the wrong movie because there is a lot of metaphysical stuff in the beginning of the film. Even I had to squirm – is this a horror film disguised as something else? It’s not, although the film touches upon ghosts. Stewart’s character, Maureen, is an American living in Paris who works as a personal shopper for a model/actress. She is staying in Paris because her twin brother passed away there recently, and they had promised each other that they would give each other signs (they are both mediums) after one has passed away. She has been waiting. But the movie is also a sexy thriller – her boss gets murdered and she has become embroiled in the case because of a mysterious anonymous texter she has engaged with. If it sounds a little bit confusing, it is, but not in a distracting way. Stewart pulls it all together – everything she does as a character makes sense, and we fully understand Maureen, and what she goes through. And we are engaged fully – the narrative is never unclear.
I loved the film. It is unlike anything I have seen recently, and I was scared, thrilled, and there’s even fashion and glamour here. Oliver Assayas, the director, always surprises. His style here is heavy handed, but he handles the mixtures of all the genres effortlessly. Even the gentleman behind me, as we were walking out, exclaimed ‘It’s a good movie.” I would have to agree.