FILM REVIEW – GRETA. With Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Stephen Rea, Colm Feore. Written by Ray Wright and Neil Jordan. Directed by Neil Jordan. Rated R for some violence and disturbing images. 98 minutes.
GRETA has impressive credentials for a horror/thriller movie. It should satisfy genre fans, and may actually draw in fans of director Neil Jordan, whose credits include “The Crying Game” and “Michael Collins.” It’s a B-movie with A-movie production values.
Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a recent college graduate living in Manhattan, working as a waitress and sharing an apartment with her friend and classmate (Maika Monroe). At the start of the film she discovers a handbag that has been left in a subway car. Unable to leave it at the lost and found, she seeks out the woman’s whose license she discovers, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta is a widow whose daughter, she says, is studying in Paris. Frances – whose mother has recently died – discovers a mutually beneficial connection. She and Greta make meals together, and Frances helps her adopt a dog.
Then it gets weird. Frances discovers that Greta has been lying to her. When she attempts to break off the relationship, Greta starts stalking her. Director Jordan – who shares screenplay credit with Ray Wright – keeps upping the ante, as Greta’s yearning for Frances goes beyond loneliness to obsession and beyond.
It’s interesting that both the heroes and villain of the piece are women. While noted actors are cast as Frances’s father (Colm Feore) and the detective he hires (Jordan regular Stephen Rea), this is about strong women as both victim and victimizer. As the movie tightens the screws, it’s not at all clear where it’s going. While the movie seems to end on a somewhat conventional note, the final confrontation is open to interpretation.
As Frances, Moretz is a young woman trying to do the right thing, who not only finds things going wrong, but learns that the world is not equipped to help her when she discovers just how seriously she is being threatened. It’s a strong performance, but not one that is unexpected in a genre entry like this. Far more surprising is international star Isabelle Huppert as the stalker. In turns charming, scary, and relentless, this is not the sort of performance that gets Oscar notice (as did her 2016 turn in “Elle,” which was cited by both the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Online Film Critics Association), but it is one that will likely stand out as one of the year’s scariest characterizations.
“Greta” is a film should creep out genre fans who have no idea who Jordan or Huppert are, while drawing the same reaction from non-genre moviegoers who do.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts