Greta has all the ingredients to be a much more elevated film. The stalker and prey duo played by veteran French actress Isabelle Huppert and the popular young star Chloë Grace Moretz make a perfect match, director Neil Jordan has top talents in his helm.
At first, looking at the cast and the director’s filmography, I was expecting a psychological thriller. Jordan had won an Oscar for writing the original screenplay of The Crying Game (1992) which he also directed. Later he brought us The End of the Affair (1999), a memorable adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, again as writer/director. Greta is the Irish director’s most recent feature.
With the older woman stalking a young, innocent prey storyline, Greta could have developed into a deeper, character-focused movie, with more backstory, maybe even a poignant depiction of loss, loneliness, and obsession. Actually it would have been Huppert’s forte to do just that. As Greta Hideg, a widow living by herself in NYC with only her piano music as companion, the role sheds a little reminiscence of Huppert’s Cannes winning character in The Piano Teacher (2001) directed by Michael Haneke. But here she is simply a violent psychopath.
A young, new transplant to NYC, Frances (Moretz) finds the handbag that Greta has left in the subway train. With good intention and much naiveté, she locates Greta’s address and brings it all the way to her home. The rest of the story unfolds with expected development but unexpected, sudden loud sounds aim to scare and shock. Thanks to the ‘chemistry’ between the two stars and their engaging performance, the movie holds up for the first hour. A third character, the free-wheeling roommate Erica (Maika Monroe) is a balm to a distressed Frances, and I admit, to us viewers as well.
The first 60 minutes of the movie was well grounded for some deeper development of story and characterization. However, writer/director Jordan chose the path of the horror genre and its wares, lapsing the second part into unconvincing maneuvers. Huppert as a revenger in Elle is psychologically thrilling; Huppert as a psychopath goes bonkers in Greta is ludicrous. When you hear laughter in the dark theatre during a horror movie, you can almost gauge the effectiveness of the intention.
As for the prominent leitmotif, Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum (Love Dream), it just serves to stir up yearnings for something deeper and artistically satisfying, instead of, alas, leaving us with an illusive dream.
~ ~ Ripples
Other Isabelle Huppert’s films reviewed on Ripple Effects: