So far, 2019 has not been a good year for Hungarian characters in film and director Neil Jordan’s Greta attempts to buck the trend. The psychological-thriller stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen and Isabelle Huppert as the film’s titular character, Greta Hideg.
Normally, these types of psycho-thrillers heavily rely on the subjects being in a romantic relationship before things get crazy, so maybe co-writer and director Neil Jordan will bring something fresh to the film
Going into this one I wasn’t sure what to expect. Based on the trailers, the premise of an older lady obsessed with — a stranger as a surrogate daughter — sounded different from the usual roles in these types of films. Normally, these types of psycho-thrillers heavily rely on the subjects being in a romantic relationship before things get crazy, so maybe co-writer and director Neil Jordan will bring something fresh to the film. Reader, he did not. Throughout the film there are too many moments that have already been done before that it kills any suspense the film tries to build. The characters are shallow and do not act like any rational human beings.
The film is set up with Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) on a train ride home where she finds a purse left by a stranger. Frances returns the purse to its rightful owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older French lady who lives by herself, and the two quickly become friends. Frances’ mother passed away and Greta says that her daughter has left for France so she’s been lonely ever since. Frances is new to New York City and returns home to her apartment with her rich roommate and former high school classmate Erica Penn (Maika Monroe). The relationship between Frances and Erica is used in stressing the point that Frances is new to the city. When Frances is returning home, the film sets up that Greta is a stalker. Greta is using social media to find out more information about Frances, she finds her Facebook and goes through her pictures, and this is where the movie starts transitioning to full Fatal Attraction.
The crazy things that Greta does to torment Frances in this film are LOLworthy because they’re portrayed in such an absurd way. Frances works as a waitress and Greta comes to her place of employment standing outside staring at her restaurant during her entire shift. When Frances tells the police they say they can’t do anything because Greta is on private property, which sure, we can let that slide even if it sounds ridiculous. Later that week, Greta returns as a patreon of the restaurant and Frances tells her manager that Greta has been stalking her, but her manager does not give a single f*ck. He tells Frances to “handle it” and not to make a scene. What? Yeah, and it gets worse. Greta pops up at the restaurant as a customer and she requests Frances as a waitress. Again, Frances’ terrible manager forces her to serve Greta instead of using a different waitress. Greta insults her, makes a huge scene (which is what the manager didn’t want), yells at Frances about needing Greta as a mother, and eventually ends up being strapped down to a stretcher out of the restaurant.
Somehow all of that takes place and Greta is free to roam the streets, lololololok? She ends up kidnapping Frances, and somehow she breaks into Frances’ apartment, poisons her coffee and takes her back to her house. All of this during a broad day in New York City. The only two people that end up looking for, the now missing, Frances is her father (Colm Feore) and her roommate Erica. Frances ended up being missing for a few weeks and there were only two people that contacted her over that time period, sure. This movie even has a whole scene where her father hires a detective to investigate and Greta ends up killing the detective, so many cliches. Frances even has her moment where she almost escapes but doesn’t because she’s movie-stupid and makes the dumbest decisions for someone who was kidnapped and nearly murdered. The big climax is when Erica returns a purse to Greta and saves Frances. It’s supposed to be that moment in the movie where you’re supposed to clap and feel good but it falls flat.
Filmmaking and Acting
Overall, the script of this movie is what hinders this movie but the acting is what helps balance it out. It’s a shame that the script was this bad because the direction and the acting are both well-polished. Isabelle Huppert was the perfect choice as the film’s titular character. She portrays Greta as someone who is unpredictable, evil and terrifying. Sure, there’s plenty of head scratching things that Greta does throughout the film, but Huppert’s portrayal is reminiscent of Heath Ledger as the Joker. She brings the right blend of comedy to this twisted, delusional and sinister character. Right behind her is Hit-Girl herself, Chloe Grace Moretz. Even though her character was portrayed as a naive dunce throughout the whole film, Moretz does her best with the material she’s given.
From a directing aspect, Neil Jordan shot a competent film. He didn’t rely on jump scares and used the characters to create the suspense in the film. There’s a scene where Greta stalks Erica and Jordan knew when to use close shots to keep things tight and not revealing Greta’s location too soon. There’s also a well-shot scene where Frances is poisoned and the film departs from its realistic aspect and goes down the effects route. Doing this gave the viewer the experience of being on a hallucinogen like Frances was. Also, when Frances escapes from Greta’s house, Frances locks Greta in a chest and wedges an Eiffel Tower in the latch of the chest so Greta is stuck there. This was a somewhat clever way to end the film because France was where Greta’s daughter vacated, it’s also a play on Frances name, and it symbolized Greta being the one stuck in France, so to speak.
The script for Greta was not worthy of a cinematic run and I think a film like this would’ve been better suited to a Netflix release. The acting by the two lead actresses brought life to a script that was filled with cliches and that deserves a salute. However, this movie has been done better over the last 20 years and Greta failed at bringing something new to the table.
[All Mames Wey]
Greta is in theaters March 1, 2019.