Director: Neil Jordan
Performers: Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Malka Monroe
If you enjoy a slow burn thriller with horror undertones, Greta (2018) will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. Isabelle Huppert as Greta and Chloë Grace Moretz as young Frances McCullen are outstanding in their performances as the stalker and victim, but the horror comes in the way Greta weaves a web. Does it go full Audition? No. Should it have? Maybe, but I’m of the mind that American theaters are not yet ready for that level of violence on the mainstream. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the experience of being stalked, something that most people can relate to in our modern world where information about anyone is a Google search away.
I admit that on first watch, Greta didn’t impress me much. It was good after the abduction, I thought, but the rest was too slow. On consideration, though, it grows more interesting. Like Greta herself, it works its way into everyday conversations with my friends as we discuss navigating problems of stalking and stranger danger. It’s worth seeing.
Greta (2018) is especially relevant in the #MeToo movement, and even more so because Greta represents the desperation loneliness brings and how it can sometimes drive a person to extremes in search of conversation or love.
Greta weaves a backstory for our protagonist Frances (Moretz) based on lies but also on expectations of class and privilege. When Frances tells Greta that she and her roommate Erica (Malka Monroe) are both Brown alumni and are sharing a studio procured by Erica’s wealthy father, we can see Greta sizing the young woman up. Greta preys on the lonely, but also those of a particular social class – those not only unwilling to steal but also afforded the luxury of travelling the extra miles and walking out of her way to return a bag in person. Her own daughter dead and prey to drug addiction, Greta lashes out in search of a young women who can take her daughter’s place but only until she finds a new target. Greta herself is a Hungarian immigrant who faced but escaped deportation. She feigns a French accent and background so she isn’t seen as the wrong kind of immigrant, and so she can hide in plain site from the law. She has a home in a part of NYC that seems older than the shabby apartment complexes that sprung up around it, and moves fearlessly through the streets. Her friendly demeanor acts as a guard against those who might wish her harm, and she projects the air of a kind, elderly woman with old-world charm flawlessly.
Don’t expect a fast pace with this one. It takes its time, building the sense of dread in Frances’s interactions with Greta. Frances’s kindheartedness makes her a target, and by the time she realizes it, it’s too late to escape the web. She makes solid choices, going to the police multiple times only to face the harsh reality that less privileged people already know: restraining orders take time, there’s nothing that can be done until the stalker acts out, and the best the police can advise is to ignore the stalker or stop giving them attention. This is the real fear factor, and it only escalated when Frances is abducted. I won’t give the ending away, but the film has some genuinely tense moments here that will stick with you long after leaving the theater.
Reviewed by Kelley Frank