James C. Clay // Film Critic
It would be criminal to reduce Neil Jordan’s latest film, GRETA, to a story about a lonely widow’s obsession with naive young women. Not only does this movie have legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert hopping across the Atlantic to grace us with one of her few English-language performances, but it has her in full-on SINGLE WHITE FEMALE mode, and it’s beautiful. This is a bold performance that proudly plays up its campiness. This mystery won’t have you guessing, but the cast – which includes Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe (in a scene-stealing supporting role) – are so committed that it’s impossible to look away.
Frances (Moretz) has just moved to Brooklyn to live in the fancy loft apartment of her friend Erica (Monroe) and start a new life for herself after the passing of her mother a year prior. Frances is a naive and trusting person, but if you’ve seen any of Moretz earlier work, you know she is far more clever than meets the eye. She finds an attractive handbag on a public transit and brings it home to her loft. Erica steals the cash out, but Frances feels the need to return the bag which contains an I.D. to a French woman named Greta (Huppert).
Audiences will quickly realize something isn’t right by the look of Greta’s vacant Brooklyn home. Her husband and daughter are both dead, plus there are some weird noises coming from the wall that Greta blames on movers. Both Greta and Frances are a bit lonely at this stage of their lives, as they spark a May-December friendship that is certainly odd, but endearing when they go to an animal shelter to rescue a handsome dog named Morton from being euthanized. The creep factor is telegraphed from the word “Greta,” yet Jordan relies on his actors to sell this story. Erica tries to warn Frances about the possibly nefarious intentions of Greta as the closeness of their friendship is moving at a rapid pace. It’s all so on the nose, and there are still thrills to be had, even if they only go so far.
Jordan and his cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey, give the film a slick style from top to bottom. The look of New York City has this polished cosmopolitan look that seems lavish yet attainable. We are primarily seeing the city from the perspective of Frances, and it all seems so exciting, but also so scary.
Even though GRETA does draw a slight comparison to the recent trifecta of THE FAVORITE, each actor finds their own identity within the performances. Both films are about a struggle for power and how to manipulate to get what you want. There are no rules to Huppert’s performance as she enters into a full-tilt psychological frenzy. She’s having an absolute blast with the material, and the audience will be along for the ride. Moretz is game for a toe-to-toe acting bout against Huppert as the duo make for solid sparring partners – with Monroe bringing in the coolness to the best friend role.
GRETA is a dark film about loneliness and wanting to have a sense of control over our own lives. It’s successful as B-movie thriller, but there’s an emptiness with the conclusion. Even for all its faults, GRETA will have you hooked.
GRETA is now playing nationwide.