Neil Jordan’s last film, the underrated vampire tale Byzantium, focused on an unconventional mother-daughter relationship to riveting effect. Now he returns to the same well for Greta, albeit with mixed results.
At its heart, Greta is a lurid thriller in the vein of Misery, Fatal Attraction or even last year’s A Simple Favor. The narrative only works because most of the people involved act like complete morons; the screenplay is littered with some frankly appalling dialogue (watch out for Maika Monroe’s treatise on colonic irrigation); and there are enough screechy violins on the soundtrack for a dozen Psycho shower scenes.
When it embraces its sillier side, the film is a delight – the final 20 minutes pile on one ludicrous twist after another – but it takes too long to properly commit to being camp. The second act spins its wheels as it makes half-hearted attempts to say something profound about grief and loneliness, and the constant lulls become frustrating. It doesn’t help that a whole host of talented actors, including Zawe Ashton and Stephen Rea, get wasted in the process. Even Chloë Grace Moretz, who puts in a fine turn as the young woman caught in Greta’s trap, can’t help but feel underwritten.
Thank God, then, for Isabelle Huppert. From the moment she first appears on screen, peeking out from behind a curtain like a fairytale witch, it’s clear that she knows exactly what kind of film she’s in. Her performance is hilarious and horrifying in equal measure, and Greta deserves to be mentioned alongside Annie Wilkes and Alex Forrest as one of the great unhinged movie villains.
There’s nothing in Greta that hasn’t been done much better elsewhere, but Isabelle Huppert’s batshit performance is worth the price of admission all on its own. This has “future cult classic” written all over it.
CAST: Chloë Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea, Zawe Ashton
DIRECTOR: Neil Jordan
WRITERS: Ray Wright, Neil Jordan
SYNOPSIS: A young woman befriends a lonely widow who’s harboring a dark and deadly agenda toward her.