Sometimes no good deed goes unpunished, but Neil Jordan’s new film Greta starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert in the titular role takes things to sometimes bizarre but always entertaining extremes.
Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is living with her friend Erica (Maika Monroe) in New York City, still dealing with the recent death of her mother. One day she finds an abandoned handbag on the subway and decides to return it to its owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Greta and Frances begin a friendship, but things sour quickly, and Greta proves unwilling to let Frances go leading to a constant living nightmare.
Greta is a vicious storm of intensity, fever dream surrealness, and strangely satisfying hilarity. But it knows that, and it embraces it, and that makes it all the more enjoyable an experience. It is not a subtle film. This is not a subtle examination of fear and loneliness in the big city or the psychology of stalking, this is a film that aims to be wall to wall insanity with a few genuinely tense and freaky sequences peppered throughout. Yes, there are a few moments where credulity is just pushed a little too far, why on Earth would you agree to meet with the person stalking you one last time, but it all evens out in the end. Obviously stalking in any context isn’t a funny or entertaining situation, but the film’s events are so removed from reality and over the top that it never feels like it’s making a mockery of a serious topic.
Of course, this is Huppert’s film, she is the eye of that storm in everything that happens and she does not disappoint. We see her begin as normal and charming, so it makes sense that Frances would seek her out as a surrogate mother figure. It then builds to a slight edge of not-quite-right, and all the way up to full 11 unhinged yet always justifying her own twisted logic. It is so great to watch her let loose and clearly revelling in it. She deserves to be looked on in the same light as Kathy Bates in Misery. Chloë Grace Moretz is a solid lead as the sweet and well-meaning, but exceedingly foolish, Frances, but The Guest’s Maika Monroe proves to be the character actress that keeps on giving and she steals every scene she is in as Frances’ friend and foil.
The movie is also a very women-driven story in a way that we rarely see in thrillers, and it’s something that feels both refreshing and also natural. Men are mentioned and encountered in passing, but the only two that have any real role in the story are Frances’ father, played by Colm Feore, with whom she has a rocky relationship, and Neil Jordan long time collaborator Stephen Rea as a private investigator whose role in the story feels like a very deliberate Hitchcockian reference. Men are there, but they prove ineffectual in actually helping. So often stalking narratives are based around romantic and sexual relationships, so seeing this story that is very centred on women, relationships between women, and ultimately the danger and potential action coming from women all the more unique.
There is a scene near the beginning of Greta where Frances and Erica go see a movie and Frances laments how seeing a dumb movie was something that she and her deceased mother would do together, and that feels like exactly what Greta is in the best possible way. The films unpretentiously is what it is and makes no apologies for itself. A B-Movie in the purest sense, it won’t be for everyone, but if you can get on board with its wild world you will have a great time.