Greta tries to be too many things. I’ve no doubt some will enjoy this thriller. Unfortunately both the tone and story are wildly inconsistent, and though there are standout performances, it’s hard to elevate work that just isn’t very strong in the first place.
Chloë Grace Moretz plays Frances McCullen, a woman who has recently moved to New York City to move in with her friend Erica (played by It Follows’ Maika Monroe) to “break in” the loft apartment Erica’s father has bought for her. During her commute, Frances finds a handbag left on a train, and is intent on returning it to the owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). What starts out as a budding friendship takes a turn for the sinister as Frances finds more than she bargained for in her relationship with Greta.
Director Neil Jordan is fairly far removed from the level of his hit The Crying Game. Greta does feature his signature unconventional emotional relationships, though it feels as if they’re handled by a much less competent director. Indeed, Grace Moretz and Huppert do what they can to make the pairing feel organic to the story. However, it comes off as wholly clumsy. These pale in comparison however to the “jump scares”. I don’t know what has been going on with horror and thrillers I’ve seen of late, but it feels as if the industry as a whole (with the notable exception of A Quiet Place) has forgotten why jump scares are scary. (They aren’t, tension is.) Movies like 2014’s The Guest, (which incidentally also starred Maika Monroe) have a much better grasp of what makes a thriller tense and scary. The script, also penned by The Crazies scribe Ray Wright is basic and in some places, achingly infantile. Characters who make correct decisions suddenly make ridiculously stupid ones. The logical inconsistencies detract from the overall whole, and the film is much weaker for it.
Although the direction is handled rather ineptly, the performances are quite enjoyable. Huppert’s portrayal of Greta is one of the highlights early on in the film, as a reserved woman in the twilight of her years, but almost inscrutable as she tries to form a friendship as if she hasn’t had one in years. It is in the early moments of this film before it decides to undergo all kinds of tonal shifts that the quiet dread begins to spark as something isn’t quite right. Grace Moretz is good, as she innocently enjoys her time with Greta, ignoring the obviously signposted hallmarks of emotional abuse before it all hits the fan. Later in the film, Huppert oscillates from sociopathic criminal mastermind to complete psychopathic sequences that confuse, but still entertain.
Ultimately, I can’t in good faith recommend Greta. If it had stuck to a singular idea and mood, then maybe it could have been a passable thriller, or a fun black comedy. Unfortunately it succeeds at neither. As Greta says – “Everyone needs a friend” – so don’t put your friendships at risk, save yourself the grief, and watch 1990’s Misery instead.