Not Exactly Greata: A 'Greta' film review
by Will Lindus
After finding an abandoned handbag on the subway after a long work shift, a young waitress named Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) who has recently transplanted to the city attempts to do the right thing and return the bag to its proper owner. In doing so, she meets a lonely widow named Greta (Isabelle Huppert), and the two form a fast friendship which blossoms into something resembling the mother-daughter relationship that Frances has longed for after the loss of her own mother. Things turn dark, however, when Frances learns that she may be in danger due to the secrets and obsessions that Greta harbors.
When played as a straight forward psychological thriller, Greta checks all the right boxes buts fails to do so in a particularly engaging or innovative fashion. For example, the strain between Frances and her father, a catalyst for the fast bond Frances and Greta form early in the film, is explained but never felt, coming across as more of a plot contrivance than as a sincere motivation. When the tension ramps up in the second half of the film, the beats feel familiar and a bit stale, and a few of the twists in act 3 are telegraphed so far in advance that they lack punch. You’ve seen variations on this movie a dozen times. You can predict where most of it is going and you’ve heard all the clunky expository dialogue before.
At certain points in Greta, Isabelle Huppert is unleashed, allowed to drop the kind matronly act and become the unhinged lunatic this film so desperately needs. Whether she’s spitting chewing gum into Frances’s hair or performing ballet twirls around a grisly crime scene, Huppert elevates this film with her bizarre but incredibly effective sensibilities. Truth told, I kind of enjoyed parts of this movie despite myself, all because of Huppert.
Also of note is Maika Monroe, who is cast as Frances’s friend and roommate Erica. This type of character is usually fairly disposable in these type of pseudo-thriller films, but Erica always feels like an important addition to the cast. She seems wise and supportive when cautioning Frances against the odd relationship she forms with Greta, reliable when suspicions grow, and capable when danger is imminent. In another film, she’d be a second act tragedy, merely inserted to raise the stakes for the protagonist, but Erica has agency in the story.
Bottom Line: Writer / director Neil Jordan has certainly made better films than Greta. In the 90s, he brought us The Crying Game and The Butcher Boy, and while he’s made several films since, these are probably the two that resonate with me the most. Fitting that he attempts to resuscitate the genre of ‘my ____ is a psychopath who is trying to kill me’ films that were so prevalent in the 90s. Greta has many faults, the most apparent of which being its predictability. But when Jordan allows Huppert to throw herself into the absurdity of her role, there is something magnetic and compelling about this film that transcends the genre. I just wish that the movie allowed itself to be weird for more of its runtime.
2.5 out of 5 Bear Paws