Greta | Neil Jordan | March 1, 2019
No good deed goes unpunished, especially on the hardened streets of New York City in The Crying Game & Interview with the Vampire director Neil Jordan’s latest, Greta. But the titular Greta (Isabelle Huppert) isn’t the sort of typical person than an unsuspecting good samaritan would normally be worried about.
When Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) finds a large black purse left unattended on a subway train, she finds an ID card and brings it home to a seemingly sweet older woman named Greta (Elle‘s Huppert) who seems to live a lonely isolated life by herself in Brooklyn. The two strike up an unusual but seemingly wholesome friendship, which seems very odd to Frances’ roommate Erica (It Follows & The Guest‘s Maika Monroe), who doesn’t understand why Frances is spending so much time with an older woman who she just met by chance. Or so they think.
As Frances finds out, Greta actually is a deranged lady who has a habit of conveniently leaving purses on subway cars hoping to lure naive young women into her web. To say what she does to them would be getting into spoiler territory, plus half the fun is going down this crazy rabbit hole with Frances and figuring out what nefarious activity Greta is actually plotting.
What begins as an intriguing mystery film takes a dark turn into an absurdist blend of horror fun. The script, which Jordan co-wrote with Ray Wright, is fully aware of the sort of film it is and has fully embraced the pulpy B-movie nature of the genre of its descent into madness. There are moments of tension where you’re wondering where Greta could possibly emerge from and when you stop to think about being afraid of 65-year-old Isabelle Huppert, well, there’s sort of a genius to that when you really stop to think about it.
But without two strong leading players in the roles of Frances and Greta, this film wouldn’t work. Moretz does a fine job playing a naive young girl with parental issues who gets caught in Greta’s web. But the film works because Huppert is such a talented actress and she totally buys into the kooky nature of this character, one who’s full of unsuspecting horrors that only get crazier as the film builds up to its fanatical climax. One particular shot (courtesy of cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and that’s featured in some of the marketing) of her gleefully dancing away from the camera after completing an act on an unsuspecting victim is something that probably shouldn’t work but Huppert is such a dedicated performer that she pulls it off in unforgettable fashion.
Although that’s not to say that Greta is an original take on the genre. Even with its many twists and turns and moments of De Palma-esque flair, it remains fairly predictable. If you’ve seen any sort of cheesy thriller of the sort that came out in the 90s, you’ll see where Greta is headed.
Even despite the more formulaic aspects at hand, Greta remains a fun silly time as it has the great Huppert running amok and giving the sort of performance a movie of the sort typically only wishes it could feature. She sells it with gusto, making it a fun time at the theater despite some shortcomings.