Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rae, Jeff Hiller, Jane Perry, Zawe Ashton, Thaddeus Daniels
Written by: Neil Jordan and (also story) Ray Wright
Running Time: 98 mins
Release date: 18th April 2019
In the 1990s, a series of movies came out that played on the premise of finding someone trustworthy, who comes into your life but who turns out not to be the person you first thought they were. Movies like Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Unlawful Entry. Now Neil Jordan, the man who gave us The Crying Game has delivered a thriller in a similar vein that is hammy, over-the-top and strangely entertaining.
Waitress Frances McCullen discovers a handbag left on a subway. She decides to take the object back to its owner, a lonely widow called Greta. They strike up a friendship, and Frances finds herself spending a great deal of time with the older woman. When she finds a cupboard full of similar handbags in Greta’s home, she becomes suspicious of her motives and decides to break the friendship off. Yet Greta is a hard woman to shake and what started as a harmless friendship soon turns into something much darker.
Going into this film, you have to allow yourself to ignore the massive plot holes and contrivances. As with any thriller like this, the big question you always ask is, why would a young woman become this close to an older, somewhat creepy woman? Alarm bells should have rung right at the beginning as she lives in a dark house that any ghost would be happy to haunt. Even advice from roommate Erica falls on deaf ears. Yet without this, the film wouldn’t go through the motions of cranking up the tension and thankfully, Jordan is a skilled enough director to pull this off, no matter how bizarre it gets.
You know when a film like this is really working when you start asking yourself questions like, how will it end? Brian DePalma was an expert at these types of movies, pushing the right buttons at the right time and often ignoring common sense, all for the sake of a twist or two. Greta has those as well. A sequence in which Erica is being followed is very effectively done as is the shocking moment of gory violence that comes in the final act. Jordan allows the situations to develop in a way which will leave you gasping.
What also helps is having the queen of psychotic women as your lead. Isabelle Huppert is a master of these kinds of roles, and here she is allowed to crank things up to a glorious 11. She is unapologetically camp, disgustingly hammy and is mesmerising in every scene. There are moments when she is so menacing and so deranged, you get shivers through your spine. As Frances, Chloe Grace Moretz is fine, allowing her co-star to take the limelight but never really growing with her character. A better bet is Maika Monroe as Erica, who is great fun as the roommate who can see the wrong turns her friend is taking. She understands this is a film not to take seriously and does just that.
Some will probably find the whole thing too odd and messy, but for me, Greta was precisely what you need from a thriller; plenty of decent twists and turns, a beautiful building up of tension and a lead who just goes for it. Not perfect by any means but I can see it getting a cult following and I wouldn’t turn it off if it comes onto TV.