Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2019)
A new entry in the “psycho stalker” genre, 2019’s Greta introduces us to Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young waitress in New York City. Frances’s relationship with her father Chris (Colm Feore) remains strained after the recent death of her mother.
On the subway, Frances discovers a lost purse that belongs to Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), a widowed piano teacher. Frances returns the bag to Greta and earns the older woman’s affection.
Perhaps in need of a maternal influence, Frances befriends Greta. However, she eventually discovers a dark side and learns that Greta hides secrets.
Going into Greta, I assumed it’d offer a pretty standard “B”-movie thriller. This meant I felt surprised when I saw Neil Jordan directed the flick.
Best-known for 1992’s Crying Game, I didn’t expect an Oscar-winning filmmaker of Jordan’s pedigree attached to a tale of this sort. In theory, Jordan should add credibility to the project.
Perhaps he does, but in the end, Greta lacks much to make it stand out from its genre crowd. The movie comes with the expected array of creepy thrills but never quite rises into anything especially memorable.
Part of me thinks Greta would pack more of a punch without the foreknowledge of the title character’s dark turn. Of course, Universal couldn’t sell the movie without that information, but it still seems like it might fare a little better if Greta’s scheme remained hidden.
That said, the twist comes early enough in the film that its existence doesn’t feel like much of a “spoiler”. We learn of Greta’s deception and potential psychosis about 20 minutes into the story, so the movie focuses much more on the impact of these traits rather than the revelation itself.
This means the meat of the movie concentrates on Greta’s escalating insanity and its impact on Frances, story elements that seem moderately compelling at best. Unfortunately, Greta fails to present much that comes across as especially creative, so once we get the big reveal, the story tends to meander its way across the remaining 75 minutes or so.
If Greta boasted more depth or psychological substance, I wouldn’t mind the absence of inventive material. However, it just seems superficial, as it checks expected boxes without much to stand out from the genre crowd.
The actors do add some panache, especially Huppert. She manages to convey Greta’s insanity without chewing too much scenery, and I appreciate her general refusal to vamp it up for the camera. Huppert creates a more believable character than usually would be the case, and Moretz grounds the film as our lead.
Greta also manages a bit of power during its final act, as it launches into crazier material. However, these moments feel like they’re a bit too little too late. While a passable thriller, Greta comes across as fairly ordinary.