In theaters now from Focus Features!
Directed by Neil Jordan
Written by Ray Wright, Neil Jordan
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Jeff Hiller, Thaddeus Daniels, Raven Dauda, Colm Feore, Zawe Ashton, Stephen Rea
Find out more about this film here
Fundamental flaws in the lead character and her journey hinder an interesting premise and ok performances in GRETA which dropped into theaters a while back. The film most likely will be lost in the shuffle in the midst of what seems to be an earlier and earlier by the year blockbuster season. And while GRETA feels like it would be more comfortable in the eighties or nineties stalker film trend, it manages to be a brainless hour-and-change-waster.
Hit-Girl herself Chloe Grace Moretz plays Frances, an uptown girl living in a lonely world. She recently lost her mother, is estranged from her father (Colm Feore), working as a waitress, and living with her sassy best friend Erica from college (IT FOLLOW’s Maika Monroe). Frances is also very lonely and bored in the city, which is the reason she seeks out the owner of a lost purse she finds in the subway. The purse belongs to a seemingly innocent and harmless elderly woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert, last seen in THE NUN). With the both longing for companionship, Frances and Greta begin hanging out more and more often, much to the dismay of her party-gal roommate Erica who thinks the whole thing smells fishy. When Frances finds a cabinet full of purses just like the one she found on the subway, she realizes Greta isn’t what she seems and tries to break off the relationship. This breakup proves to be harder than it seems for Greta is as obsessive as Frances is naïve.
GRETA is a well-produced film with some impressive talent. Chloe Grace Moretz proves to be a sympathetic protagonist, easy to identify with and capable of carrying her weight in scenes with an actor far beyond her age. Isabelle Huppert is decent at the obsessive title character and though it is a cliché to be the sassy friend in these types of films, Maika Monroe plays the part well and proves that she is a talent yet untapped in a worthy movie. The story looks good, with nice shots of New York from a street level perspective. All in all, though this is not a film that will not be noted for its production, still does the job capably.
That said, none of these characters are written well. Specifically, the characters are more one note players rather than actual characters with depth. Moretz is written to be extremely weak in the main protagonist’s role. She is basically a ping pong ball lobbed around by all of the characters with no control about the direction she ends up. Frances is aimless in the film, which is fine, and it would be a compelling story had her decisions taken her in a direction that had given her purpose. Instead, Frances (a healthy 23-year-old bike riding woman on her feet every day as a server in a restaurant) is helpless against the elderly and frail looking Greta who looks like she could be knocked down with a stiff breeze. On top of being incapable of physically taking on Greta, Frances’ frustrating naivete proves to be her downfall, SPOILER as she ends up being bound, drugged, and gagged in a secret room of Greta’s apartment. To add insult to injury, Frances is not even a part of her own rescue and relies on the ingenuity of others to escape. This makes for a disgustingly weak character and I can’t believe in this day and age; such a character was written. END SPOILER
But Frances isn’t the only one that is terribly weak here. The cops are ineffectual. The detective (phoned in by Stephen Rhea) is bumbling and ridiculously useless. No one is a match for this 80-pound elderly woman. Her abilities to drug everyone and walk around silently in her nylons seems to have no match within the confines of this film. In the end, Neil Jordan’s job was to give Frances a hero’s journey and prove that Greta is a formidable foe. In both instances, he failed. Frances’ character was weak and to overcompensate, they practically gave Greta a supernatural level of resourcefulness and threat. That just killed GRETA for me, despite the sleek package it is delivered in.