Greta is creepy good fun
How lonely would I have to be in my best friend’s spacious New York City loft to return a purse I found on the subway to a stranger, stay for coffee, and then make plans to shop for a dog later that week? It would depend on the day for sure. But Isabelle Huppert is a compelling reason to take the chance of being drugged and locked away in a box like a porcelain doll for all eternity. In Neil Jordan’s latest, Greta, Huppert takes campy thriller to new heights, and makes us all question the lengths we (especially women) should go to be a good neighbor.
Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) moves to New York City to live with her friend Erica (Maika Monroe) after the death of her mother. On her way home from waitressing, Frances finds a purse on the subway sans owner. The MTA Lost and Found is closed, and despite taking it all the way home, Frances resists Erica’s insistence they take the money and run, using the address on the ID inside to return the purse to Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Once Frances sees her loneliness and loss reflected back to her in Greta’s eyes, a friendship blossoms, resulting in homemade dinners, walks in the park, and a very confused and freaked out Erica. But Greta isn’t at all what she seems, and when Frances stumbles across her collection of duplicate purses, complete with the names of the sorry souls that returned them, she cuts ties with Greta. It goes over really well.
From here, Greta hits the stride of traditional thrillers, but with a touch of commentary on the particular difficulties faced by women who find themselves in a relationship they can’t shake off. Greta calls and texts Frances obsessively, she stalks her outside (and inside) her work, she threatens Erica. And, something that is becoming all too familiar, Frances is unable to get law enforcement to do anything about it. The other interesting dynamic explored here is one between nurturer and dependent. Huppert plays Greta perfectly as a delicate, petite, unassuming woman looking for a daughter. Frances is looking for a mother, but she also feels a sense of responsibility toward Greta as an older woman she can help (or fix) by befriending. Once in Greta’s perfectly laid trap, Frances becomes hers to manipulate and bend to her will.
Along with Huppert’s pitch perfect performance as a crazed psychopath wielding a syringe, Jordan imbues his film with some really fun and well executed sequences of suspense–especially when Frances is held prisoner in Greta’s home. Technology is also used in creative ways as a means to terrorize as well as move the plot. These, along with the familiar tropes that find characters making terrible choices–walking around dark rooms (for God sakes turn on a light!)–and a seemingly indestructible villain makes Greta endlessly watchable.
Greta opens in Philly theaters today.