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07 Mar 2019

Psycho-Stalker Fun: 'Greta' Isn't Groundbreaking, but Great Performances and Some Scares Make It Worthwhile

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Chloe Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert in Greta. Chloe Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert in Greta.

Isabelle Huppert goes bonkers in director Neil Jordan’s Greta, a silly, standard psycho-stalker film made somewhat fun by Huppert’s commitment to nuttiness, as well as co-star 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-type bond. Greta has a daughter of her own, but she lives in Paris, so Frances fills a void, while 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 connection isn’t going to work out well. The cards are flipped early in the movie, and Greta reveals herself as a real kook, with her eventually going into full stalker mode. The plotting is similar to that of other stalker films like Single White Female and One Hour Photo. Those films were actually quite entertaining, as is Greta. That’s mainly because Huppert, a great actress, commits 100 percent to becoming a memorable, cringe-inducing psycho nut. There’s little mystery that she’s crazy; the movie is really about revealing just how freaking crazy she is.

Jordan uses a lot of standard scenarios, like Greta taunting Frances through her mobile phone, or Greta standing outside the window of Frances’ workplace, just staring at her. In the hands of a lesser director, this could come off as shlocky, but Jordan (The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy) knows a few things about making movies with solid cinematography and editing. Greta is 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. 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 journey into crazy villain land, Moretz deserves 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 vigor to the “roommate” role 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 make it worthwhile. Huppert’s Greta isn’t the sort of movie monster that will haunt your dreams, but she will make you uncomfortable for a couple of hours.

Greta is now playing at theaters across the valley.

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