FILM REVIEW: Greta
A sweet, naïve young woman trying to make it on her own in New York City, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) doesn’t think twice about returning the handbag she finds on the subway to its rightful owner. That owner is Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an eccentric French piano teacher with a love for classical music and an aching loneliness. Having recently lost her mother, Frances quickly grows closer to widowed Greta. The two become fast friends — but Greta’s maternal charms begin to dissolve and grow increasingly disturbing as Frances discovers that nothing in Greta’s life is what it seems.
Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe
Review by Jean Wong
Greta (2019) is Neil Jordan’s latest thriller work that draws its substance from subverting a simple mother-daughter relationship into a much more sinister one.
Greta, as played by Isabelle Huppert, is a lonely old lady in need of a companion after her daughter leaves for Paris. Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz), having recently lost her mother and being new to the city, is grateful to meet a friendly face in this foreign environment and easily gives Greta her trust. After all, what harm could an old lady do? Their friendship is lovely to watch until Greta’s behaviour begins to turn stalkerish.
Huppert plays the role of an increasingly deranged character terrifyingly well. As the movie progresses, Greta’s obsession with Frances begins to intensify to a disturbing level. With Huppert’s strong performance, Greta as the antagonist becomes a lot more compelling to watch on the screen. Moretz also holds up her own powerful performance as Frances, whose naivety could have been a drawback for her character had it been mishandled. Instead, Moretz sells a believable act as Frances which allows the audience to empathise easily with her and hope for her safety.
What falls flat in Greta is the writing. The characters often find themselves in opportune situations that suit their needs and conveniently move the plot along, and the characters themselves felt a little too two-dimensional sometimes. Case in point: upon revealing more about Greta’s daughter’s past, the movie never explores what could have been a good backstory for Greta. Instead, it was a touch-and-go situation which was a pity, as it would have stood as a good redemption point for the antagonist.
Save for the weak writing, the rest of the film is done marvellously. Sudden appearances seem to be Greta’s favourite method of stalking her prey, and Jordan makes use of clever camera angles to limit our line of sight so that we are never sure when she might pop up. The palpable sense of tension lingers throughout the film. The otherwise unremarkable characters are given a new lease of life with Huppert’s and Moretz’s great acting skills. Even the atypical choice of music — at least, for a thriller film — is used in innovative ways that works brilliantly. The classical soundtrack (Liszt’s Liebestraum) is timed so that the music crescendos at gut-wrenching moments. Though unusual, the dramatic music works to play on our nerves.
Greta is ultimately a decent stalker story that’s just creepy enough to unhinge you a little. The great cast adds to the harrowing experience that this film might bring and is definitely reason enough to give this film a go, with the psychotic elements being tied together well.