Aaron Katz’s 2017 “Gemini” took one plot line from Olivier Assayas’s complex, multi-layered 2016 “Personal Shopper” and ran too far with it. Both thrillers deal with its main characters figuring out life and death as they’re wrapped up working for very public celebrities.
The film “Gemini” is set in present-day Los Angeles with Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke) as the personal assistant and close friend to upcoming Hollywood star, Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz). The film “Personal Shopper” is set in present-day Paris with Maureen Cartwright (Kristen Stewart) as the personal shopper, picking up clothing items and accessories for A-lister, Kyra (Nora Waldstatten).
The role of Maureen is more than just a personal shopper, she is a medium trying to make contact with her twin brother, Lewis, who has recently died from a heart attack. Maureen has the same heart condition as her brother.
There’s a clear difference in acting when it comes to both films. “Personal Shopper” is able to utilize big names such as Kristen Stewart, who plays the lead role, and Lars Eideinger who plays Ingo, Kyra’s boyfriend who she is having an affair with. Having big names from the industry it is obvious they know how to perfectly act their roles and get the message and theme across to the audience. While “Gemini” does not have big name actors, there is still clear chemistry and visible friendship between boss and assistant, Heather and Jill.
Unfortunately, the writing of “Gemini” was missing so much when it came to different characters. Characters like Jamie (Michelle Forbes) and Detective Ahn (John Cho), could have been utilized more throughout “Gemini” to give it an added boost instead of a dragged-out story with missing details throughout. While the characters can convey the theme of fear in technology in a world that is extremely connected to their phones, there was a lack of plot and a surplus of long, landscape transitional scenes that did not add anything to the plot. “Personal Shopper” on the other hand, had the perfect mix of ghosts, murder and mystery in the writing giving plenty of plot layers to run smoothly without many drags.
“Gemini’s” dull blue and purple color scheme with neon accents and the music building and lulling at the perfect times add to the suspense, drama, and overall theme of the lackluster Hollywood experience. Watching “Personal Shopper”, an audience could feel the cold, fall weather with dull colors, the crunching of leaves on the ground, and the wet streets of Paris as Maureen drives her scooter from one store to another. Both films did an excellent job of displaying their particular locations.
The opening scenes of both films do a great job of showing the audience just a sliver of what is going to happen. “Gemini’s” opening scene shows the tops of palm trees upside down foreshadowing how life was about to be turned upside down for personal assistant, Jill. The opening scene of “Personal Shopper” shows Maureen getting out of a car to unlock the chain keeping a gate leading to an old home closed. Opening this gate opens and releases what is held within the home.
When looking at individual scenes, “Personal Shopper” outdid “Gemini” when it came to using light purposefully throughout the entire film. From the very beginning, the audience is placed into a large, old home (classic haunted mansion visual comes to mind), with light only coming through windows in various rooms. The contrast of light and shadow can be seen on Maureen as she wanders through the home. The darkness in the empty home amplifies every little creek of the floor, the rustle of leaves with the wind, or noise produced by an unknown matter.
The major flaw that stood out in “Personal Shopper” was the technical errors seen when Maureen began to receive text messages from an unknown number that became very distracting. It may seem like a small error, but as the texts begin to play a large role in the film, the errors only continued to be more and more distracting. Coming out in 2016, an audience is going to notice that the texts come from a contact name “unknown,” when in real life an unknown number would just show a number. Another flaw within the texting shown was the consistent change from showing a text from the same person as delivered, read or read with a time stamp. Once again, the audience will know that’s not how texting works. The film should have picked one display and stuck with it throughout every texting scene to avoid the distraction.
Looking at the overall films, “Gemini” is missing an extra something. The acting, directing and idea is there, but the film needs something deeper than a surface level drama/mystery with a classic plot twist to make this film a true drama/mystery that would get a genuine reaction out of it similar to other films of the same genre. With the ending wrapping up so fast it seemed unfinished. There were too many unanswered questions making the audience crave more. “Personal Shopper” overall had what “Gemini” was missing. The extra plot, writing and acting were all present throughout the entire film. The film has scary aspects, real emotions and the perfect layering of the plot that will keep an audience on the edge of their seats.
If you have the two-hours that it would take to watch one of these films, I would suggest “Personal Shopper” over “Gemini”. While both films feature a common theme and tone, looking at the writing, directing, acting, imagery and overall enjoyableness, “Personal Shopper” exceeds in almost every aspect making it the more entertaining film to watch.
“Personal Shopper” 8.5/10
This review was a product of my Journalism 3630 Reviewing and Criticism class. Edits to my original reviews have been made based on comments by my professor. Please contact me for original copies.