The first trailer for Neil Jordan’s “Greta” gave audiences a taste of what looked like a startling horror-thriller – one that was pretty high on my list, especially compared to the other releases from early this year.
But after premiering to some mediocre feedback in early September 2018 at Toronto International Film Festival, “Greta,” and its stale reviews, had a while to marinate before its March 2019 release date. As a result, I became a little more disenchanted by the once promising film, and it slipped further and further down my list, like I’m sure it did for many others.
Now, I’m here to set the record straight. THEY WERE WRONG. “Greta” is absolutely wild, in all the best ways.
When Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) finds a purse sitting unattended on the subway, she looks through it, finds an ID card and returns the purse to its owner, a 60-something year old widow, Greta (Isabelle Huppert). The two quickly hit it off, and because Frances recently lost her mother, she realizes Greta can fill this void in her life. But, when Frances finds a cabinet full of identical purses with names and phone numbers on them, Greta’s intentions are suddenly revealed to be far darker.
I will admit, one of the things working against the film is the fact that all of this is given away in the trailer. Consequently, the first 40 or so minutes are all spent building up to a big reveal that you’re already well aware of, and can at times drag a bit. You get to know Frances, see her meet Greta, watch the two build a relationship, but all the while, you know it’s coming. Once it finally happens though, things get crazy.
While the story here is nothing too revolutionary – it’s a pretty straightforward kidnapping/hostage scenario – the phenomenal performances by Huppert and Moretz more than make up for any lack of originality. Huppert’s insane, obsessive portrayal of Greta verges on the brink of humorous, and that’s why it works so well. Instead of trying too hard to make it feel like a true high-stakes thriller, Jordan decided to make the film so over the top that its ridiculousness never works against it.
Think of it like some sort of blend between the Netflix hit series “You” and Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 masterpiece, “Prisoners.” It may never come even remotely close to the level of “Prisoners,” but it finds some moments to strike the same intensity and edge-your-seat thrills. The similarities to “You,” and its oftentimes outrageous plot lines, work to keep the film from getting too dark, and show Jordan’s sense of self-awareness.
The ending of “Greta” may have left the door open for a potential follow up, but thanks to a forgettable opening at the box office and less than stellar critical reception, I wouldn’t hold out hope for a sequel. Despite liking this film more than most, I think it’s best left as a self-contained story – a return to this world would more than likely feel repetitive and unnecessary.
If you take anything away from this movie, I think it’s these two important lessons: never let a bad review discourage you from seeing a film, and never touch another person’s things on the subway.
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.