Irish director Neil Jordan is a bit unpredictable when you sit down for his films. “The End of the Affair” was unpredictably sexual, “The Brave One” outrageously violent and suspenseful, even his vampire flick “Byzantium” gave the genre a completely different perspective. His latest thriller “Greta” makes very good use of Isabelle Huppert, recently Oscar nominated for another seductive thriller “Elle”. Outrageously twisted doesn’t begin to describe the events of “Greta”. Even as Jordan masterfully crafts his genre films, he takes this one to wildly erratic heights. It’s essentially a Tarantino/Shyamalan type horror film that isn’t afraid to take the audience on a wild goose chase. Another element I have always enjoyed about Jordan’s films is his focus from the female perspective. He is the guy than can turn any male character into a female and make it work even better.
Naïve Frances McCullen (Moretz) finds a purse on the subway with info and a drivers license inside. Her roommate Erica (Monroe) says they should spend the money, but Frances is honest and seeks out the owner. It belongs to Greta (Huppert), a French widow living in New York all alone, desperate for companionship. Impressionable Frances, who just lost her mother last year, finds comfort and solace in Greta’s company. They become friends until an evening where Frances finds something in her new friends quaint house that scares her to the bone. She tries to cut ties with the strange woman, but an obsession has formed, and Greta begins psychotically stalking her, outside work, hundreds of calls and messages. NYPD are no help and Frances must take matters into her own hands.
Ray Wright (The Crazies) and Jordan’s script plays off psychological terror in the way Shyamalan’s The Visit worked. Jordan doesn’t allow a ceiling for how wildly camp Greta can become, each scenario the audience lands in has no boundaries. You will never look at cookie cutters the same way, that’s for sure. This isn’t a perfect thriller by any means, viewers who prefer more fact checked realism will become disinterested fairly early when Greta proves there are no rules to play by. There are a few false turns in the narrative that string the audience along unnecessarily, however for the most part this is the type of movie that taunts the viewer, evoking claps, shouting suggestions for the main character and even some eye covering moments.
When asked why she chose this film Moretz replied, “You don’t say no to working with Huppert”. Indeed, it’s the ostentatious Huppert who isn’t afraid of any subject matter, making Greta so marketable and riveting (bravo to Focus Features for taking a risk). Small touches like Greta dancing in her stockings over a body with a turntable playing make the film slightly sadistic. Huppert creates the perfect villain that should evoke quite a few “that’s messed up” reactions before reaching its applause worthy conclusion. Moretz is well cast here but can’t hold a candle to Huppert, few American actors have the freedom she enjoys as a performer. Frequent horror actress Maika Monroe (It Follows) makes this a welcome female trifecta, getting some juicy moments of her own.
Final Thought – Greta is the first must see film of 2019, a welcomed unpredictable thrill ride of madness.