Greta (2019) – Second Take

Helming his first film in 6 years, director Neil Jordan (Interview With The Vampire, The Crying Game) does away with any of the weight he usually injects his projects with and adopts a trashy 1990’s/early 2000’s thriller mentality for Greta, a campy romp that’s fully aware of its cliches and delights in playing just as you’d expect.

The film starts off simply enough with naive New Yorker (by way of Boston) Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz, likable but a little too subdued) coming across a lone handbag on the subway.  Instead of turning it into the police or the MTA, she takes it to the suitably outlandish loft she shares with her wealthy gal pal Erica (Maika Monroe, an absolute scene-stealer with all her wit and vapidity).  Learning the bag belongs to an elderly French woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert, wonderfully unhinged), Frances does the saintly act by returning it to her in person, with the seemingly kind Greta inviting her in for coffee and conversation.

One look at Greta’s secluded New York townhouse should tip any good horror aficionado that something is seriously off, but of course that’s half the fun in waiting patiently for Greta to reveal her true crazy colours.  We’re already informed in the film’s earlier moments that Frances is particularly kind and trustworthy, so we’re not surprised that she takes something of a liking to the lonely Greta whose husband has passed away and doesn’t see much of her abroad daughter.

For a good portion of Jordan’s outing, Greta appears as if it’ll play out like some type of chummy dramedy where Greta and Frances will form a bond in a nurturing manner, substituting the loss in their own lives with one another; Frances’ mother has tragically passed too, so we’re already expecting Greta to play the mother card when she eventually flips her psycho switch.  Of course that would be no fun, so when Frances comes across Greta’s stash of handbags, all identical to the one she so kindly returned – with different names and phone numbers attached to each one, to make things extra creepy – we’re all on Frances’ side when she tails out of Greta’s abode, intent on never seeing her again.  If only it was that simple.

From here on out Greta slowly starts to adhere to the Single White Female/Fatal Attraction temperament it’s alluded to, with the unstoppable titular creation stalking young Frances at every avenue of her life.  Police are no help, so Frances does what every genre white girl does, she takes matters into her own hands, and it’s here that the Jordan/Ray Wright-penned script goes into gonzo overdrive and surrenders to the slick commerciality that has alluded much of Jordan’s career.

Unsurprisingly acting as a showcase for Huppert (although the feisty Monroe nearly steals it away from her with her pluck), the actress is simply a marvel in a movie that is far beneath her talents.  Moretz is dangerously close to being miscast, but perhaps her subdued turn is a creative choice to highlight her stereotypical character’s lack of intellect, and to further enhance the wonderfully deranged mindset of Huppert’s Greta; one moment following one of her devious acts she twirls around the room whilst listening to Chopin, barefoot and clutching a gun, with wild, camp abandon.

If Greta decided to completely embrace the camp mindset that laces the final act, it could’ve been something truly memorable, but even with a slightly uneven tone, Jordan’s thriller is a neat throwback surprise that’s winking and nudging at its audience more so than we’re expecting it to.

 

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