Movie Review: Greta
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Director: Neil Jordan
by Jason Koenigsberg
25 years ago Neil Jordan was one of the hottest directors on the planet. Winning an Oscar for his controversial indie hit The Crying Game (1992) and going on to helm the 90’s studs-capades of Anne Rice’s adaptation Interview with the Vampire (1994), he was very in demand. The 21st century has not been as kind to him but to Neil Jordan’s credit he has been uncompromising and continued to make the subversive entertainment that has not been commercially successful, so in 2019 a campy stalker thriller Greta is the best that he could do for a wide release. Which is actually not a terrible thing. Mr. Jordan has fallen from his critically acclaimed heights of twenty-plus years ago, but still managed to cast Isabelle Huppert in her first major role after her Oscar-nominated turn in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016) and Chloe Grace Moretz is a talented young actress and a welcome presence in all of her films, most recently seen in a small yet pivotal role in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake last fall. So he certainly was able to assemble skillful actors to work with. The movie itself they collaborated on, Greta, is well, interesting. The tone is all over the place and the film cannot decide if it wants to be a serious stalker thriller or a campy dark comedy. It ends up being both throughout and the result is a mixed bag of scares, and intentional or unintentional laughs.
Greta opens up with ominous music followed by sounds of a subway. Then the opening shot is of people getting on and off a New York City subway. The camera then follows a woman with red hair whom audiences should assume from the previews is Huppert as the title character Greta even though her face is not revealed. Her M.O. is to place handbags on subways and hope that the person will return them to her address, and that said person is also a younger woman. The emphasis on the subway and its importance to the story taking place in New York is very reminiscent of Neil Jordan’s other New York City film, the revenge story The Brave One (2007) which starred Jodie Foster. That was an uneven film that dragged at times. Greta is never guilty of boredom, it is guilty of being melodramatic in some scenes followed by bizarre gonzo moments in others. Jodie Foster never went as over-the-top as Huppert does in Greta.
The film is competently directed by a veteran and it shows. The scene where Chloe Grace Moretz first meets Huppert as Greta at her apartment has moments that foreshadow and reveal a lot about the characters like when Greta tells her neighbor to quiet down and asks Moretz to come in and closes the door. The door slams shut loudly and her face is in complete darkness symbolizing the evil that her character is capable of. Credit should also be given to Maika Monroe (famous from the 2015 horror film It Follows) who turns what could have been a thankless role as Moretz’s roommate into a character that the audience cares about and feels like a real person who wants to help her best friend. The two main characters played by Huppert and Moretz find each other and form a bond out of loneliness. Moretz accepts Greta into her life because she lost her mother a year ago and may be looking for a surrogate mother figure to love her. Huppert’s character longs for a younger companion although her motives are not entirely clear until later on.
One flaw with Greta is that her character goes from an unassuming nice lady to a stage 5 clinger in a matter of days (or minutes in the film) The film does not really shift into sheer goofiness until the second half. There is a clear moment where Greta veers into high camp territory when Huppert goes to visit Moretz’s restaurant where she works as a waitress and has a reservation. From that moment on many scenes are tough to take seriously but they certainly will keep your attention. Its mood shifting back and forth from that point on is something the viewer will have to decide if they can handle. I may have found fault with Greta but I did not ever look at my watch. I was intrigued by what could happen next. Sometimes the payoff worked in the film, other times it did not.
What I could not forgive Greta for is the flaws in the script. Moretz’s character makes some very illogical decisions to follow Huppert at a point where it seems she has her out of her life. By doing so she puts herself in harm’s way with Greta in ways that someone who feels they are stalked by a dangerous person would never do. The film tries to justify this when Moretz goes to the police and she is met with apathy and bureaucracy. The final shot is also an interesting one. It could be interpreted as the psychotic character’s obsession with French culture, or it could be viewed as an intentional knock on France coming from Irish director Neil Jordan. Either way, Greta is an interesting failure. I cannot recommend the picture because the tone was too uneven and had drastic shifts that were jarring throughout, but I was never bored or uninterested in what was going on as I watched it.
Skip Greta and check out Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire. Easily his best film and one of the best vampire movies of all time.