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article imageReview: ‘Greta’ isn’t averse to going off the rails Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 1, 2019 in Entertainment
‘Greta’ takes an unexpectedly campy approach to the stalker narrative as a young woman finds out breaking up is hard to do even when romance isn’t involved.
Loneliness can be a dangerous affliction for those experiencing it and those they may encounter. Whether self-imposed or enforced by an external factor, its effects can be highly detrimental on someone’s mind and spirit. While both are unfavourable for the stricken, deterioration of one’s mental state can have a ripple effect that at best inconveniences and at worse harms others. All reason goes out the window and all that matters is not being alone again. In Greta, a young woman befriends a forlorn widow only to discover she’s been caught in a precarious web of lies.
After her mother died, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) moved to New York to live with her college roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe). But the native Bostonian has yet to become embittered by the city, so when she finds a purse left on the subway her only instinct is to ensure it’s returned to its rightful owner. Frances’ good deed lands her on Greta’s (Isabelle Huppert) doorstep and an unexpected friendship develops as both women grieve the loss of a loved one. However, Greta’s appeal as a maternal surrogate quickly sours when Frances uncovers evidence demonstrating she may not be as sweet and helpless as she appears. Not taking the news of their “break-up” well, Greta stalks Frances as a constant reminder that they belong together.
This is a bizarre version of Fatal Attraction in which an older woman is obsessed with someone she’s deemed her substitute daughter. The first step is dozens missed phone calls and unanswered texts. Then Greta starts following Frances, watching her at work and then at home. She stalks her friend and makes concealed threats about their safety. But harassment isn’t actually a crime and the New York courts are overwhelmed, so there’s no legal action that can be taken. The presumed ludicrousness of Frances’ fear only amplifies the lack of support for someone with legitimate fears for their security — regardless of who the perpetrator is or their gender.
Yet the moment Frances makes her discovery, everything seems absurdly comical. Greta’s fixation and persistence is deliberately over-the-top as she pleads for Frances to give her a second chance. Her uncanny ability to be around every corner, or on the other side of every door or window is preposterous — and not just for a woman her age. Later, she does the strangest little dance around the dead body of someone she’s murdered that’s vaguely reminiscent of the misplaced glee Leatherface exhibits in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For lack of a better term, she’s completely cuckoo… and unnaturally stealthy.
Huppert appears to revel in this opportunity to ham it up on screen, indulging in Greta’s every quirk and irrationality. The script states “the whole French thing” is just an act, so she spends the latter half of the film angrily stumbling through Hungarian since that is supposed to be Greta’s actual native tongue. Even though Greta is alarmingly insane, Huppert is an absolutely startling delight in the role. Moretz’s character is kind but not entirely naïve, so she does all the right things when her relationship with “the old lady” goes south. Yet, even Frances (and Erica) prove to be silly — particularly at the end of the film when they ask a question so obvious, everyone in the audience answers whether silently or out loud.
This is not like director Neil Jordan’s other, more stylish pictures as it elevates the surrealism while restricting its locations. But even though this movie isn’t as sophisticated as his other films, it’s still enjoyable because of its absurdity rather than in spite of it.
Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe
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