Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Jeff Hiller, Colm Fiore, Stephen Rea
Writers: Ray Wright and Neil Jordan, story by Ray Wright
Director: Neil Jordan
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: March 1, 2019
GRETA starts out with an interesting riff on the stalker theme. It is helped hugely by its stars Isabelle Huppert, who plays the title character, and Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen, a young woman who pays dearly for a good deed.
Frances is relatively new to Manhattan, rooming with her high-spirited friend Erica (Maika Monroe) while mourning the loss of her mother. Frances is displeased that her father (Colm Feore) seems to have bounced back from what she feels should be their shared grief. It is in this state of mind that Frances sees an abandoned handbag on the subway. She brings it home. Erica is horrified that Frances didn’t call the bomb squad, or at least turn the bag over to the authorities. Frances, however, finds identification in the bag and determines to return it to its rightful owner, one Greta Hedig.
Greta turns out to be a charming French expatriate who lives in what looks like a guest house. Greta’s husband has passed away, she explains, and her daughter is away studying. Greta makes tea for Frances and provides a sympathetic ear. At first, it looks like the young woman missing her mother and the older woman missing her daughter have found comfortable surrogates for the voids in their lives.
Well, that’s how it seems. Then Frances makes a discovery, in one of GRETA’s best moments, that causes her to radically rethink the situation. For awhile, the movie keeps Frances and us guessing as to exactly what is going on here. So far, so good, although things get a bit repetitive and we have to suspend some disbelief. (Given that Frances and Erica are both clearly from money, it seems that they should have more options available to them.)
Then we get to the third act, and it becomes clear that director Neil Jordan and his co-writer Ray Wright (who conceived the film’s story) don’t exactly know where they want to go. The information we get about Greta contains a few points that seem like they should be important but go nowhere. Part of the issue is that the further we get into the story, the more we’re not sure what to make of Greta. Is she a dark genius, or a complete lunatic?
Even this wouldn’t matter as much as it does if the story doesn’t stagnate for awhile. Things happen exactly as we expect until we get to the climax, when there’s one good twist.
A lot of horror films have at their heart the message that it’s folly to try to help others. GRETA seems to support this less-than-generous worldview. However, unlike, say, THE HITCHER or any number of zombie movies, GRETA seems to be trying to say something serious about human interaction. It just gets so tangled up in plot holes and misdirection and bouts of silliness that we can’t really tell what that is. Director Jordan often has a keen eye for absurdity, mixing terror and hilarity, but the two never quite link up here.
By the end of GRETA, we’re left with what feels like a math problem. Does the intriguing build-up plus some solid jolts and fine performances from Huppert and Moretz equal a worthwhile viewing experience when we subtract the lulls and misfires? To each their own answer to the equation.
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Article: Movie Review: GRETA