Greta (2019)

Directed by Neil Jordan
Written by Ray Wright and Neil Jordan

When I initially heard about this film, I certainly didn’t have any expectations. Sure, I love Isabelle Huppert, but I haven’t seen Chloe Grace Moretz in anything in a while, and while I’ve heard of his films, I’ve not seen anything by Neil Jordan. Regardless, Huppert is such a strong draw that there is a natural set of expectations just built on the fact that I get to see one of her performances. But then I read the plot synopsis and I wondered whether there was anything original could be done with the ill-fated, not what it seems relationship built between two strangers. Well, I will say this, Huppert is a must-see. The rest of the film is better than expected too.

Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) has just moved from Boston to live with her friend Erica (Maika Monroe) in New York City. Erica sees Frances as too cordial, fearing she might get eaten alive in NYC, so she hopes to help guide her, but after Frances, a restaurant server, finds a lost purse on the subway, Erica tries to persuade her against returning it. Frances, being who she is, feels obligated to seek out the owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Upon meeting, the two strike up a friendship, built somewhat on Frances having recently lost her mother, and Greta feeling lonely herself. But soon, the relationship takes a turn as it morphs into something Frances didn’t ever expect, resulting in a thrilling game of cat and mouse as we try to figure out just who Greta is and what she’s up to.

Isabelle Huppert is off the rails crazy in this, in the best possible way. Jordan constructs a rather tight and serious, yet silly thriller, which really affords Huppert the room to really let loose with her performance, and it works wondrously. The result is a film which is surprisingly effective in its creepiness and thrills. As previously mentioned, there is much here that is not new. The type of film here has been done before many times, and I’m not sure that Jordan really brings much new to the table per se, but the execution is quite strong, resulting in a fairly taut, if imperfect narrative. Come for the thrills, stay for Isabelle Huppert. Always.

There is some clunky dialogue, some more than questionable character decisions and motivations, but much of that is swept under the rug to give stage to the performances, which are universally good. Huppert, of course, but I was always pleasantly surprised by Moretz’s more serious turn here. Maika Monroe was strong as well, delivering a more playful vibe somewhere between the two. The balance was certainly effective, and the trio elevated the material from the rather mediocre and standard screenplay.

Huppert’s performance deserves a better movie around her, but the rest of it all is good enough to warrant a recommendation regardless. She is clearly having a whole lot of fun in this film, and it is refreshing to see a film not take itself so seriously that it can take a moment to also laugh at itself. It’s easy to see where things might be going, what might be happening, what character x is going to do. And there are plenty of eye-rolling moments where you can scream at the screen “don’t do that”, and “why doesn’t she just do x!?”. But all in all this is an easy film to have fun with an enjoy if you just release yourself to its wiles.

★★★ – LIKED IT

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