As a Midwesterner, I was raised with a certain set of manners, which means to this day, I still say “please” and “thank you,” I hold doors open for others, and I am probably just a little too nice to strangers for my own good. And because I tend to always try to do the right thing, I related way too hard to the story of Greta, as this twisty thriller served as the perfect reminder that sometimes good deeds can end up being your undoing if you’re not careful.
Greta follows a 20-something named Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) who discovers a purse left behind on the train one day and decides to be a good Samaritan and return the purse to its rightful owner, the kindly and elegant widower Greta (Isabelle Huppert). The two women bond instantly, with Frances being a recent New York City transplant who feels disconnected from her family and Greta also suffering from her own brand of loneliness, and they begin to hang out as a means to fill the voids in their respective lives. But the more time they spend together, the more Frances feels that Greta has begun to invade aspects of her life, and as she pushes her maternal stand-in away, Greta’s desperation to stay in Frances’ life grows deeper and deeper, and she sets out to remind the young woman about the importance of minding your manners, but most of all, your elders.
With its moody palette that perfectly captures the everyday humdrum of Frances’ life in New York City, Greta is essentially Neil Jordan’s version of Single White Mommy Issues, which maybe makes it sound far more derivative than it actually is, but I mean it purely in a complimentary manner. Sure, many of the story beats will seem familiar to those of us who have an affinity for obsession-centric thrillers, but Greta does take a few surprising twists and turns, and it’s the wholly engaging performances from its lead actresses that kept me invested until the bitter end. Also, Greta features a supporting performance from Maika Monroe as Frances’ roommate Erika, and whenever she’s on screen here, Monroe really shines, making her more than just another prop for Moretz’s character’s embattled existence.
And while I do wish Jordan had pushed Greta’s obsessions to even darker places, and perhaps even earlier in the story as well, there is a very specific moment when Huppert gets to go full tilt with her performance, and that’s exactly when Greta amps up from being good to being downright great, as an unhinged Huppert is always effectively terrifying to behold. In other scenes, Huppert’s ability to strike fear from just her mere presence was reminiscent of some of the great iconic villains in the horror genre, where Greta seemingly knows where her prey is at any given time, and can appear practically out of thin air. But true to form for the award-winning actress, Huppert’s Greta commands the screen, especially in the film’s third act, when her character is just begging for people to screw with her, just so she can let loose on them. And when she does, the results are absolutely fantastic.
For as much as it is a haunting character study of how loneliness and grief can unite the unlikeliest of friends or drive some people deeper into madness, Greta also delivers up some top-notch thrills, as Jordan toys with viewers akin to how Huppert toys with Moretz’s character throughout the film. He’s purposeful with his tone and his intoxicating slow build towards the impending mayhem when Greta’s psyche is capable of unleashing at any given moment, which may turn off some viewers, but this writer didn’t mind at all that Jordan takes his time crafting his cautionary tale.
Movie Score: 4/5