Director: Neill Jordan
Starring: Chloe Grace-Moretz, Isabelle Huppert
After seeing The Prodigy only days earlier, it was entirely refreshing to see the lighting and color palette of Greta. Here is a thriller that doesn’t rely on dark tones and gray matter to shove its genre in your face. This doesn’t take away from the dread or lonesomeness that Chloe Grace-Moretz feels throughout the experiences of Greta though. All one should want or expect from Neill Jordan’s newest film is a simple and intriguing at best viewing experience, qualities that this reviewer feels it delivers.
Grace-Moretz plays Frances McCullen, a young waitress and novice to the New York scene, living with her rather insufferable friend Erica, portrayed by scream queen Maika Monroe. Frances finds a bag on the subway in the film’s opening credits, and, upon discovering an ID for a Greta Hideg, she decides to return the lost item. Upon doing so, she meets the gentle and seemingly compassionate older woman, who is played by Isabelle Huppert, who is more known for French films and the works of Michael Haneke.
Anyone who knows the film’s premise knows the drill. There’s something off about Greta, but we can’t quite place our finger on it. For a woman with apparently no friends, she seems awfully sociable with Frances. And our first real red flag is raised when we see her, by herself, looking up information on Frances on her laptop, after making it clear only minutes beforehand that she was terrible with technology. Despite this, Frances falls victim to her through her desire for a surrogate mother, as her biological one had recently passed.
What this film excels at is building its tension, and understanding the effectiveness of a certain minimalism and mystery that’s uncommon in modern thrillers. Instead of giving us tsunami of answers, it unfolds gradually, like a kaleidoscope, revealing small secrets about who both our female leads are, both in personality and in history. And when we do get answers, they aren’t necessarily grandiose. There’s no grand scheme, there’s nothing abhorrently large that’s been functioning in the background the entire time. And many of the factors about Greta remain an enigma for the entirely of the film, which this reviewer personally sees as a positive. The scariest thing about Michael Myers was his lack of motive or backstory. Greta is definitely more human than the Halloween antagonist, but director Neill Jordan doesn’t give us needless information.
There are a few slip-ups for Greta, however. Some moments of lashing out are a bit overused. The manner of speaking and the facial expressions of a brilliantly bitchy Isabelle Huppert are substance enough, to the extent that we don’t need her to spit gum in Frances’ hair. And there’s a rather obnoxious plot hole toward the end of the film, as well as a murder that, in my opinion, took away from the mysteriousness I cherished so much about Greta’s character.
Even if the flaws listed weren’t a factor, its easy to complain that this premise is something that has been reformatted in both better and lesser films within the preceding two decades. There’s nothing revolutionary about Greta the film or Greta the woman, and I likely won’t be revisiting this film. But if you enjoy thrillers and want to kill 98 minutes, go ahead.