If I were to make my viewing selections based on the opinions of critics, I would have skipped Neil Jordan’s psychological thriller, Greta. The Isabelle Huppert starrer opened to mixed reviews during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and when you’re watching a thriller and unsure about the appropriateness of laughing, it’s not hard to see why.
In a rare English-language role, Huppert, a decorated French actress, plays the title character, Greta. A grieving mother and retired piano teacher, she’s lonesome and searching for companionship. Her prayers are answered when Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a soft-spoken, 20-something longing for a maternal figure, naïvely shows up at her door to return a handbag she left on the subway.
The pair forge an unlikely friendship, bonding over Greta’s daughter moving to Paris and the death of Frances’ mother. Early on, Frances’ roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe), voices how uneasy their fast friendship makes her, pointing out that New York will eat Frances alive if she’s not smart about her interactions. Needless to say, this was sound advice that she should have taken to heart.
One night during a dinner date at Greta’s house, Frances stumbles upon a cabinet filled with handbags, just like the one she found on the subway, with all of Greta’s identification inside. She realizes that Erica was right about Greta and her questionable intentions.
In the days following her discovery, Frances makes a clean break from Greta. Here’s what she fails to realize: Just ghosting her former friend won’t get rid of her. Greta’s a stage five clinger and she’s holding on until the bitter end.
The laughs came when Greta began to unravel – and I don’t think that was Jordan’s intention. For what it’s worth, Huppert gives a stunning performance as a deranged woman disassociated from reality, but Greta’s behaviour at times was so outlandish and absurd that the only option was to laugh. There are parts of the film that are meant to be creepy, but because Greta comes off like a petulant child it’s hard to take her seriously as a villain.
Moretz is equally as captivating in her role, but in today’s day and age, it’s hard to believe that anyone would operate as thoughtlessly as Frances does. Would you give the person that’s tormenting you the 411 on your leaving town? I didn’t think so. She is naïve to a fault and it becomes especially hard to watch when Greta’s plan for her becomes clear.
While I would have to agree with the critics who found Greta to be more silly than psychological, it’s a female-centric thriller with an ending that screams “girl power.” If nothing else, it’s worth a watch just to see these fine actresses give a masterclass in performing zany material.