Isabelle Huppert goes gonzo bonkers in director Neil Jordan’s latest, a silly, standard psycho stalker cinematic run-through made somewhat fun by Huppert’s commitment to nuttiness, and costar Chloe Grace Moretz’s excellence at playing freaked out.
Moretz is Frances, a young woman living in New York City with her best friend Erica (Maika Monroe). Frances, still dealing with the loss of her mother, finds somebody’s handbag on the subway and decides to return it to its owner.
The owner is Greta, a piano playing, solitary French woman who immediately invites Frances into her life, and they develop a fast mother-daughter bond. Greta has a daughter of her own, but she lives in Paris, so Frances fills a void. Greta provides the motherly friendship Frances craves. Erica cries weird about the whole relationship, but Frances persists, even helping Greta adopt a dog, and opting to hang with Greta instead of friends her age.
This is a horror-thriller, so it’s fairly obvious going into the theater that the Greta connection isn’t going to work out for the good.
The cards are flipped early in the movie, and Greta reveals herself as a real kook, and the mother/daughter bonding goes south super-fast, devolving into Greta going into full stalker mode. The plotting is similar to other stalker films like Single White Female and One Hour Photo. It’s worth noting that, while it’s like those films, those films were actually quite entertaining, and Greta is often entertaining, as well.
That’s mainly because Huppert, a great actress, commits 100 percent to providing you with a memorable psycho nut, a cringe-inducing creepo who makes your skin crawl. There’s little mystery behind the notion she’s crazy; the movie is really about revealing just how freaking crazy she is and, as it turns out, she’s way out there.
Jordan gives us a lot of the standard scenarios, like Greta taunting Frances through her mobile phone, or Greta standing outside the window of Frances’s workplace just staring at her. In the hands of a lessor director, this could just come off as shlocky, but Jordan (The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy) knows a few things about making movies with solid cinematography and editing. It’s a solid movie enterprise as far as all the bells and whistles go.
Huppert and Jordan do a serviceable job of making Greta an intimidating, terrifying monster at times. They also allow the movie to go off the rails in a funny and effective way. Ballet dancing, hypodermic needles, piano playing and toy boxes all play a part in the insanity, and Huppert embraces the chance to play bad with glee.
While Huppert takes a blissful journey into crazy villain land, Moretz gets a lot of credit for keeping her role grounded in a sort of reality, no matter how nutty the proceedings get. The film works as well as it does because Moretz’s Frances is easy to root for, even when her actions are so dumb.
It doesn’t hurt to have Monroe doing her best work since her presence in the instant horror classic, It Follows. She brings vim and vigor to a role (the “roommate”) that could easily come off as a stereotype. Erica proves to be a character as memorable as Greta and Frances.
Greta isn’t groundbreaking filmmaking, but it is entertaining and contains enough good scares and creepy moments to give it a pass. Huppert’s Greta isn’t the sort of movie monster that will haunt your dreams, but she will make you uncomfortable in a good way for a couple of hours. There’s no reason for you to rush out and see it in theaters, unless you are a huge Huppert fan. It’s a movie that will work just fine when you stream it someday looking for some goofy scares.