Film Review: Greta
Not Everyone Needs a Friend
Not trashy enough to be low-brow, but not nuanced enough to be high-brow, director Neil Jordan’s Greta instead finds itself in a rote and disposable middle ground. Even with the talents of Chloë Grace Moretz and the inimitable Isabelle Huppert, the film struggles to rise above a tedious script and paper-thin characterizations. Greta offers some basic thrills and a bevy of interesting individual moments, but none of it is enough to make the film particularly memorable. Minor spoilers ahead…
Greta, the new stalker thriller by director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), is somewhat of a vintage throwback. Campy and time-displaced, the film attempts to reconstruct the trashy stalker fare of the 1990s with parts stitched together from films such as Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, and Cape Fear. With Chloë Grace Moretz (fresh off last year’s Suspiria remake), a precocious child actor that came into her own as a fine young thespian, and Isabelle Huppert (Elle, Amour), an actress that can only be described as a French screen legend, Greta had all the ingredients of a sleeper horror hit. Unfortunately, the film ends up straddling a troublesome no-man’s land - without the chutzpah to embrace its camp roots or the storytelling bravura to convey anything of substance, Greta wallows in its mediocrity. Much of the film’s faults lie in its empty and forgettable script, written by Jordan himself and screenwriter Ray Wright. Cliché-ridden with a whimpering dud of an ending, Greta is sleepy and uninspired.
“…without the chutzpah to embrace its camp roots or the storytelling bravura to convey anything of substance, Greta wallows in its mediocrity.”
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Frances McCullen, a waitress sharing a spacious Tribeca loft with her rambunctious friend Erica (Maika Monroe, It Follows, The Guest). Having recently lost her mother to cancer, Frances one day finds an abandoned purse on the subway, its personal effects leading her to our title character, Greta, a lonely and peculiar French widow allegedly estranged from her only daughter. The two become fast friends, despite the very-New-Yorker protestations from Erica. With Frances filling the maternal hole in her life and Greta gaining a surrogate daughter, their bond is almost instant. However, when Frances suddenly discovers a whole cabinet full of the familiar green purses, complete with fake IDs and creepy nametags, her relationship with Greta takes a nasty turn. Friendship turns into obsession as Greta handles her rejection extremely poorly, stalking Frances at every turn.
To no one’s surprise, the best parts of Greta revolve around the crazy stalker set-pieces, even if we’ve seen them all before. Isabelle Huppert is clearly the main draw for the film, playing up her obsession with a demented glee and a psychotic sparkle in her eye. Whether she’s causing a scene at a restaurant, getting loaded into an ambulance in a straitjacket, or twirling around in her house with a syringe, Huppert’s Greta is admittedly fun to watch. In fact, the whole cast is eminently watchable - Chloë Grace Moretz is a relatable protagonist (though somewhat of a cipher), especially effective at selling her despair and hysteria in the third act, and Maika Monroe has a pleasantly proactive role that subverts genre tropes in the best way. Unfortunately, however, Greta leaves too much on the table with a severely undercooked script that only serves to chain some fun moments together and not much else. I rarely ever complain about the brevity of films, but Greta’s scant 98-minute runtime does it no favors. The backstories for Frances and Greta, and therefore their entire relationship, come off as nonentities - underdeveloped and then tossed aside for the film’s more sensationalist scenery-chewing, the relationships between the characters feel like a rough outline rather than a cohesive whole. It would be one thing to prioritize schlock and entertainment value over story, but even Greta’s psychotic behavior, while somewhat delightful to witness, feels like it pulls its punches. Afraid to commit to its camp and B-movie roots, Greta’s twists and turns are nothing special, and other than a single shocking act of violence in its third act, it botches its ending with one of the most anticlimactic and unsatisfying resolutions in recent memory.
Greta has the pedigree and talent for cult classic status, but is instead content in its shapeless mediocrity. A relic instead of a throwback, the film is unable to even approach the fun and exploitative benchmarks set by its 90s inspiration. Not great and not awful, Greta swims in even worse waters: the dim pool of forgettable cinema.