"Who is Greta?" The posters asked up and down Santa Monica Blvd., as Isabelle Huppert's penetrating gaze met the hustle and bustle below. I was curious. But since I saw Neil Jordan's latest adventure into the realm of salacious horror, I think a better question would be: what is Greta?
Jordan's fetish for playing with genres is no secret. He made tragedy sexy in The Crying Game, and sex tragedy in The Company of Wolves. But his balancing act here teeters on the brink of absurdity. The script, co-written by Jay Wright, jumps from a campy B-movie, to a highbrow psycho-thriller, to an increasingly stupid slasher premise, and turns into a commentary on the digital age. Boundaries don't apply to Jordan. He’s one of the few directors working today who can create what he wants. Still, his barrage of clashing tones plays like a slew of waffling ideas.
What’s clear are the wonderful performances from the two leading ladies. Chloe Grace Moretz plays Frances. She works at a restaurant in New York, and despite the company from her animated friend (Maika Monroe), she feels weary and isolated in the city. And then there's Huppert, who weaponizes the handbag better than anyone since Margret Thatcher.
One day on the subway, she notices someone left a purse. How odd! Not really, but Frances being a good-hearted, easy-to-root-for heroine, decides to return it to its rightful owner. She finds herself at a quaint Brooklyn cottage, the redbrick with vines type you can only find on HGTV. Greta (Huppert) opens the door, and lets out a wide smile and thick French accent. The two bond over coffee and the warm feeling of companionship. Yet strangely, they seem to be investigating each other, as the slow-panning camera catches their eyes trying to read the underlying thoughts of the other. If only Frances could’ve read Greta's sinister thoughts before she left.
Too late. After discovering purses in her cabinet, a discovery similar to a pile of pictures in Get Out, her only option is to abandon all contact. This proves harder than it sounds, since Greta sticks to her victims like gum. And the film then spins into an occasionally taut, though always clunky voyeuristic thriller.
Thrilling really only describes the barmy third act, which finally gives us the unhinged action we’d been dying for. Like Huppert flipping over dinner tables, dancing with a syringe to Franz List, and rapidly changing from a mannered French bourgeoisie. All the scenes are maniacal enough to become memes. Primed for the Internet or not, the film just doesn't work. In a better-executed picture, the themes of delusion from loss, and a mother’s need for her child (and vice versa) would come off as poignant. But this is meaningless, a product of underdeveloped characters, bad storytelling, and unsophisticated direction—even if it does have a few intelligent things to say about the French's rejection of American ideals.
Ideally, Greta should’ve taken its cues from Notes on a Scandal, an alluring thriller that had something to say about jealousy in society’s hierarchy. Although quasi-gripping, this doesn't have that same mysterious mood.