A Lifetime movie starring an Oscar nominee.
Just when I thought I was finished with reviewing movies from last year, Greta (2018), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, finally arrives in theatres. Thank God because right now there’s hardly anything new playing. You know, I never realized how dry months like January and March were for movie releases until I started this blog. I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks Greta. You may not have been one of the most interesting or coherent movies I’ve gone to review, but without you, I’d have nothing to write about this week. Okay, let’s dive in because you guys, this movie is an experience to say the least.
Greta is a psychological thriller that tells the story of a reclusive piano teacher who befriends a young woman and slowly becomes obsessed with her as she interprets their friendship as deeper than it really is. Isabelle Huppert stars as the titular character and Chloe Grace Moretz plays Frances, the young woman of Greta’s obsession.
Before I went to see Greta, I first watched its trailer and I’m sorry to say that seeing the trailer really takes some of the enjoyment out of seeing the movie. Simply put, it spoils the entire first act. Leaving very little to the imagination, the trailer shows how Greta organizes her seemingly unexpected meeting with Frances, and how their relationship eventually ends with her being pushed over the edge. Knowing that, it’s difficult to believe Greta’s innocent longing for companionship, as you know that she’s an unstable stalker who tricked Frances into being her friend. Seriously, that isn’t even a spoiler, it’s literally just the plot of the movie. Oh my God, so I know that with all movies you have to suspend your disbelief just a little bit, but how in 2018, in NEW YORK CITY, is Frances going to just give her phone number and personal information to a strange old lady she just met? And then cook dinner at her house, help her adopt a dog, and basically become her best friend? As Frances’ roommate Erica says, “you’ve totally adopted this woman, it’s getting weird.” Erica, come through with the facts!
I am not a huge fan of Chloe Grace Moretz. She’s perfectly fine in everything I’ve seen her in, but I find her very vanilla and ultimately unmemorable. Except for when she had a three-episode run on 30 Rock (2006 – 2013), further proof that Tina Fey can make anyone shine. In Greta, Moretz turns in a solid performance as the good-natured, if not incredibly naive, heroine, Frances. Watching her grow more and more paranoid of the threat Greta poses is a genuine thrill, as you share in her mounting fear of when and where Greta will show up next. Will she disturb Frances at work? Intercept her on the walk home? Tamper with the elevator to talk to her? The anticipation will have you on pins and needles. It’s hard to root for Frances because the movie does a poor job of giving us any defining character traits other than “nice” and “naive.” Seriously, every time a character talks about Frances it’s about how good she is, and every time I as a viewer saw her on screen, I couldn’t stop thinking about how careless she was being.
You know that there is an unstable, possibly dangerous, creepy old lady stalking you. You should not be doing any of the following: walking home alone at night, leaving your front door wide open, not turning on lights immediately when you get home, and worst of all, RETURNING TO GRETA’S HOUSE to check on the DOG! Frances! Are you TRYING to get abducted? Let me tell you, I was consistently frustrated and distraught.
Isabelle Huppert is easily the most enjoyable part of Greta, and I can’t describe how well she pulls off such an eerily captivating performance. Possessing a truly menacing aura, Greta is like a character out of a Stephen King novel or a Grimm’s fairy tale, and Huppert plays the part to perfection. Hauntingly realistic and utterly disturbing, she’ll have you questioning giving out your personal information to even your closest friends. Watching Huppert is like following a winding trail: You can never be sure where you’re going. Going right when you were certain she’d go left, her performance as this twisted mother figure is an electric one that’s sure to keep you on your toes.
Greta is the definition of a three-star movie. Though the performances from its leading ladies are splendid, the movie as a whole is slightly underwhelming. There’s certainly a healthy dose of chilling creepiness and delightfully unsettling moments, but they all take place near the movie’s end, after first and second acts that are a real chore to get through. To the movie’s credit the plot picks itself up quickly enough, but once it’s established, you truly spend the next 40 minutes watching Frances make terrible decisions and Greta stand spookily in doorways.
Peppered with more than a few maddening moments and a terrific scene-stealing role from supporting actress Maika Monroe, Greta may not be the most original of thrillers, but it’s still a perfectly adequate movie that is sure to entertain. I would recommend going with a group of friends on a Tuesday when ticket prices are cheap. Finally, I have to leave you with this ridiculous line that I sure as hell wasn’t expecting to hear in this dark drama: “I don’t want asparagus juice shot up my butt under any circumstance.”
Will you see Greta?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!