Kristen Stewart Is The Vinho Verde Of Actresses

Torre de Vila Nova 2015 Vinho Verde

Nevada City Wine Diaries

Image: russellstreet

Last Friday I went dancing until 2 a.m. at a gay bar in Sacramento. There was probably a day in my not-too-distant past when I would have been too embarrassed to admit that I was taking in the nightlife of this unsung city with such joyful abandon. The truth is, I find myself warming up to Sacramento. I mean, it is the city that’s closest to me, so to not warm up to it would be at this point be self-sabotage, and in case you haven’t heard, self-sabotage is the thing that fucks up our lives the most. I know you thought living in a garbage country where people try to pay you nothing to do shitloads of work was the problem but you’re wrong. Your life sucks because you never go dancing in Sacramento.

After driving home Saturday morning, I was exhausted and my whole body hurt. I took a three-hour nap and when I woke up I looked to see what movies were playing. They were all about monsters and space and other things I wish would just go away. The only thing I remotely wanted to see was the Olivier Assayas movie Personal Shopper, which came out in New York probably a couple months ago but is only now made it to my sleepy Sierra Foothills town.

I texted the Little Red-Haired Girl to see if she wanted to see Personal Shopper. She asked me what it was about and I said “It takes place in Paris and it’s about ghosts and shopping.” She said “sold.” A half an hour later, we were sitting in the fourth row of our town’s tiny independent theater. This theater is so tiny that the bathroom is next to the screen so if you want to go to the bathroom during the movie you have to get in everyone’s way. This is fine except for once I had to go to the bathroom twice, and was humiliated.

Five seconds into the movie, onto the screen walks Kristen Stewart. The Little Red-Haired Girl and I turned to each other and said, in unison, “Holy shit, is that Kristen Stewart?” What can I say. We are bumpkins. I saw Clouds of Sils Maria — saw being a synonym for “cynically suffered through” — and though I knew Assayas directed it and that Stewart was in it I wasn’t aware she had become his “muse.” Pause as someone rolls up the roll-up vomitorium. Pause as I enter, vomiting.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge Kirsten Stewart for having a well-paid job in the arts that allows time off for Hobbies and Personal Reflection. But she annoys me. She seems to project signs of being interesting without actually being so, other than of course that time she made out with that married man in Griffith Park, which was amazing.

The Little Red-Haired Girl was drinking wine and she asked if I wanted any. I saw that it was Vinho Verde. I don’t find Vinho Verde terribly interesting either, but if it wants to go make out with someone in Griffith Park I might reconsider.

Right away Kristen Stewart — who plays a character improbably named Maureen Cartwright — started doing what Kristen Stewart does which is to walk around train stations and ateliers looking very put upon and bored with Paris with her sweater cuffs pulled down over her wrists. Sometimes she drove around a scooter with the same expression.

Sometimes Maureen Cartwright dismounted the scooter, desultorily removed her helmet and desultorily flipped through racks of beautiful clothes at chic ateliers (are there non-chic ateliers? I’m really asking!) muttering things like “This will work,” or “I can see this on Kira.” Oh, and Maureen Cartwright also really loved text messaging. If you do not like watching people named Maureen Cartwright text message in real time, this movie is not for you. Finally, if Maureen Cartwright has a superpower — aside from communing with the dead — it is abandoning half-finished bottles of beer. At one point, on the Eurostar, or waiting for it — who knows, who cares — she took ONE SIP and then skulked off, playing with her dirty hair. I call bullshit on that. Unless of course you mean to tell me that Kristen Stewart is the only woman in the world who makes out with married dudes in Griffith Park but doesn’t finish beers.

So that’s the meat of what we see on screen. The “story” underlying these endlessly repeated visuals, or the series of unlikely and not relatable premises (and like, I get that movies aren’t supposed to be real, but these literally felt as if they had been pulled from a hat/beret) taking the place of an actual story is this: Maureen is working as a personal shopper for a bitchy actress, the previously mentioned Kira. Additionally, she is marooned in Paris because her twin brother died there of the same heart disease/excuse-to-show-her-naked-at-a-cardiologist’s-office from which she herself suffers. She doesn’t want to be a personal shopper because it’s a stupid job and it doesn’t give her enough time for her passion, which is creating black-and-white sketches. Her black-and-white sketches are fine, but not quite as good as the sketches that the executive editor of Eater, who actually has a real job, just does on Facebook for fun. So she is both working as a disgruntled personal shopper and occasionally visiting a chic but empty mansion her brother somehow managed to buy at the age of 27, where she tries to talk to his ghost.

The film’s “narrative drive” (aside from “Will she go visit her boyfriend in Oman who Facetimes her a lot, even though they both seem to be gay or at least not attracted to each other) “centers” around her waiting for her brother’s ghost to give her some kind of sign. To my mind, he seems to oblige. Some kind of primitive cross appears in the plaster on the stairwell wall. “Was this there before?” Maureen Cartwright asks her brother’s young French widow — Mrs. Cartwright?—who just shrugs, because, whatever, it’s just a spooky haunted mansion, who knows whether those terrifying pre-Christian symbols on the wall were drawn by an evil demon or just the previous owners? Then the ghost leaves the water running — twice. But no sign is ever good enough for Maureen Cartwright! “I need more,” she says, burrowing into her sweater cuffs, engaging in the haphazard fidgeting that is Kristen Stewart’s standard response to everything from mild annoyance to an unexpected visit from Satan.

I kept hoping the ghost’s sign would be something like a sudden cool breeze at Maureen Cartwright’s wrists, and suddenly, she would feel the light pressure of ectoplasm, helpfully rolling up her sweater cuffs. Or, even better, if the ghost was like “Hey, hear that water I just turned on? There’s a shower in there! And get this — there’s even SOME SHAMPOO. God I remember when I was alive how great that stuff was! Wait — have you ever heard of shampoo?” But alas, this was not to be.

Sorry, I swear to God I will stop after this, but I thought of one more great thing the ghost’s sign could be: It could put a “SMILE” bumpersticker on her scooter. Look, I realize men telling women to smile is awful, and believe me, if Resting Bitch Face were an Olympic Sport, I would be on a Wheaties box. But Kristen Stewart’s moroseness is endless and tedious. (Actually, they were probably not going to have a dead brother in this, but after realizing that Stewart was incapable of even the smallest gesture of levity they were like “Let’s have someone die and then have her wait for a sign from him and never like any of the signs enough” and everyone was like “Totally, great idea.”)

It is especially tedious considering how many famous film critics seem to think her shuffling about and glowering and scoffing amounts to something. Manohla Dargis — who thought Clouds of Sils Maria (so arid, so pretentious it seems like a joke) was “superb” said of her: “Ms. Stewart easily holds both her own and the screen alongside Ms. Binoche, delivering the kind of emotionally translucent performance that first got her noticed as the girl with the guitar in Into the Wild.” First of all, what was this gasp heard round the world when Kristen Stewart appeared in Into the Wild and what was I doing that night? Second: “Emotionally translucent” — what the fuck does that even mean? That you can tell what she’s thinking? I guess maybe that’s true, except if what she’s thinking is always “OK, now I am going to fake not-finish another beer,” who needs to know?

Here is Anthony Lane, also reviewing Clouds of Sils Maria. He quite reasonably recognized it for the risible Eurotrash it is, although he liked Stewart: “It is she (Stewart) rather than Binoche, who lingers in your mind when the film is over, and leaves you musing on what comes next; Valentine, chafing at her job, with her uncool spectacles and her droopy shrugs, somehow holds the greater promise.” Stewart plays the same person in CLOUDS she plays in personal shopper — the exact same — but with glasses. Also, I’m troubled that Lane doesn’t know uncool spectacles are cool. I mean, I live in a town where the biggest store is called Spirit Weaver, and even I know that.

Variety’s Todd McDonald rings the closest to reality, referring (also talking about CLOUDS) to Stewart’s “habitual low-keyed style, which can border on the monotone.” Hmm. Let’s think of some other things that border on monotone. Wow, I really can’t really think of anything, because no one ever bothers to talk about such things, unless they are Kristen Stewart, or maybe — Vinho Verde?

Back to the film, where, suddenly, there is a murder. “I didn’t see that coming at all,” said the Little Red-Haired Girl. “Why,” I said, “Is it because nothing in this movie has anything to do with anything else that is in it?” At one point you think Maureen Cartwright could have committed the murder, then some automatic doors at a business hotel open and close despite there being no one actually opening and closing them, because, maybe, it’s a ghost? Who knows?

Then Maureen Cartwright, taking on the same tone she might use to describe misplacing her ATM card for fifteen minutes, tells her gay boyfriend that she was almost framed for a murder. She pets a dog. Then she has coffee with Mrs. Cartwright’s new boyfriend, who is so bad at acting that I think Assayas’ assistant put an ad in the French version of Backstage reading “American man, 25–35” and cast the first non-hideous dude who showed up. Then the brother’s ghost finally breaks a glass at Mrs. Cartwright’s new place (not the old haunted one) but Maureen Cartwright doesn’t put two and two together, because that might involve trying. Maureen Cartwright goes to Oman, where — after all this time hanging out in a haunted mansion, that stupid ghost reveals it can break glasses any old place , and breaks another glass. And now — because God forbid Maureen Cartwright ever be satisfied — she doesn’t even think the ghost is her brother. She wonders if the ghost might actually be her. Jesus, Maureen Cartwright!

I have two words for these French movie shenanigans. WHAT and EVER. At least we didn’t have to see her and her “boyfriend” have to pretend not to be gay.

“I feel like movie stars should be rated on whether or not it would be fun to go dancing with them in Sacramento,” I said as the credits rolled.

“I agree,” said the Little Red-Haired Girl. “I would never take Kristen Stewart to Sac. She didn’t even like Paris.”

And so, now that this was over, of course, I was ready for a drink. Luckily there was some Vinho Verde left, and it was still slightly cold, appealing but not overpoweringly so, with a nod towards tartness, but not tart enough and inoffensive but bit dull NOT UNLIKE SOMEONE ELSE WE RECENTLY SPENT A LOT OF TIME WITH. Vinho Verde is young Albariño, which can be really good if it has some bracing acid, but this one lacked backbone so it was just eh, fine. Still it’s one of those things that people get excited about even if it’s not that good because sometimes they’ve heard of it and it’s supposed to be cool. I had a glass, and then, even though I didn’t really want or need one, I had another, because it was there.