Actress Isabelle Huppert is considered an icon in her native France. But it wasn’t until 2016 that most American audiences were introduced to her, with her Golden Globe-winning, Oscar nominated role in the bizarre “Elle”.
Huppert’s performance as an assault victim determined to learn the identity of her attacker commanded the screen, the actress often speaking volumes through simple facial expressions. She uses that skill even more effectively as the grittier, unpredictable title character in writer/director Neil Jordan’s suspense thriller, “Greta”.
Chloe Grace Moretz plays Frances. She’s a somewhat naive 20-something who recently moved to NYC from Bsoton after the death of her mother. Frances is a waitress at a Manhattan restaurant, living with a girlfriend in a Tribeca loft. When Frances notices a pocketbook left on the subway, she decides to track down the owner (Greta) and return the bag to her.
This act of kindness turns out to be the worst mistake of her life. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that “Greta” is a movie about stalking. I won’t go into detail exactly how psychologically challenging that concept becomes – both for the characters and the audience. That’s for you to discover.
“Greta” has the chance to become a cult classic. All the ingredients are here: niche story, wacky elements, laughable yet equally disturbing scenes, menacing tone and Isabelle Huppert. Some may find it a bit insane, outrageous and mildly repulsive. Others will be drawn into the cooky, yet surprisingly grounded nature of it all.
I’m somewhere in between. “Greta” is a creepy, yet generally effective thriller. The Oscar-winning Jordan (“The Crying Game”) has crafted a mostly authentic cat and mouse game that plays (a bit too often) with our emotions. Huppert and Moretz do a nice job pulling-off wicked and innocence, respectively.
But the most successful aspect of “Greta” is the film’s exploration into the modern world of stalking, personal space and boundaries in relationships – the power of the aggressor and helplessness of the victim. Many moviegoers will find themselves yelling at the screen as situations unfold. All will likely discuss the realities of the situation Frances finds herself in on their car ride home.
In an early scene Frances is told that you don’t pick-up a stray bag on the subway, “you call the bomb squad”. We’re all taught as children not to talk to strangers. Like the Greta character herself, this film sucks you in. It also leaves you wondering if performing a random act of kindness is really worth it.