Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) works as a waitress in Manhattan and lives in a spacious loft apartment with flatmate Erica (Maika Monroe). When Frances finds a bag on the subway, she dutifully returns it to its owner – an elderly foreign widow named Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert) who, since her daughter moved away to Paris, has become increasingly lonely and isolated. Thankful for Frances’ honesty and good Samaritanism, Greta invites the young woman in for coffee and the two form an unlikely friendship, two lonely souls that seem to have happened upon a friend in a busy and cold city. While Greta is seeking to regain the mother-daughter bond she has lost, Frances searches for a maternal figure, after the death of her mother a year prior. However, their relationship soon takes a dark turn, after Frances uncovers a disturbing secret in Greta’s home, and it becomes apparent Greta has other more sinister plans with Frances.
Greta is directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Borgias) and written by Jordan and Ray Wright (Case 39).
Greta is a film that can’t make up its mind. The film starts off as a suspenseful thriller that could be read as a critique on social assumptions of elderly well-spoken women – if a man had attempted to bundle a roofied young woman into a taxi he would have been stopped immediately. The film then also dips its toe into surrealism and psychological thrills, but only briefly, also detouring through brief slasher horror before an anticlimactic conclusion. Ultimately, what starts off as a promising and intriguing premise, devolves quickly into absurdity – and not the good kind. The ridiculousness of the second half is funny and disappointing, leaving a lot of loose character threads floating in the breeze.
Huppert does make a compellingly wicked villain, dancing around manically in her stocking feet, and both Moretz and Huppert do well in their opposing roles. The film does offer a decent amount of suspense, the occasional jump scare and some moments of adrenaline, amidst the mocking chitter caused by some clichéd and comical lines of dialogue. Greta is dark and sleek, with clever cinematography that creates a sense of unease and claustrophobia, but the characterisation is cursory at best.
It’s refreshing to see a thriller that is removed from overtly sexual violence and predatory behaviour against usually young female victims. Greta is an exploration of the banality of evil, challenging our expectations and once again proving that it pays to be afraid of literally everyone. Especially lonely old women.
I rate this film 5/10.
Greta is in cinemas from February 28th.