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Greta (Movie Review)

Greta (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a sweet young woman trying to make it in the Big Apple while living with her more worldly, experienced best friend, Erica (Maika Monroe). One night, she finds a lost handbag and promptly returns it to its rightful owner, an elegant French lady named Greta (Isabelle Huppert), who seems like the mother figure Frances craves. However, there’s more to Greta than meets the eye.

REVIEW: GRETA is pretty high pedigree as far as genre goes. Starring Isabelle Huppert in the title role and directed by Neil Jordan (it’s his first film since the underrated BYZANTIUM), this was snapped up by Focus Features at the Toronto International Film Festival, but despite it’s art-house bonafides, rest assured, this is a light, commercial effort for all involved, with both Jordan and his star leaning into the campier potential of the premise. The result is certainly a B-grade thriller, but a campy, sometimes delicious one that moves quickly and gives Huppert to chance to chew some scenery and have fun in a larger-than-life part.

There’s one major problem though – GRETA isn’t scary. Jordan’s film is so campy that it plays out more as a comedy than the psychological thriller it’s being sold as. Right from the start, Moretz’s character seems to be impossibly naïve, with Huppert sending up red flags almost the second she steps into her apartment. This makes me think that maybe Jordan intended this as a semi-spoof of the genre, right down to Maika Monroe as Moretz’s savvy roommate, a rich kid who, in the movie’s one real twist, turns out to be something of a heroine as the film goes on. She comes pretty close to stealing the film late in the game, although Huppert fights her tooth and nail with the scenery-chewing kicked up to eleven. Again – it’s not scary but it’s fun to watch.

greta, isabelle huppert, chloe grace moretzThe fact that GRETA might be a send-up, but never clearly signals its intentions is going to lead to reactions that’ll be all over the place by critics and genre fans – presuming they show up to see it (pretty iffy). It’ll be too silly for anyone expecting to be scared, but if you like camp this is the film for you. There are a lot of really funny bits, such as a memorable meltdown Greta has when she pays an unwelcome visit to Frances at her job as a waitress in a fancy restaurant. Huppert is an inspired bit of casting, with her initially playing Greta as the type of elegant, European sophisticate we imagine her as, before going crazy in a way that would have made WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE-era Bette Davis or Joan Crawford proud. In a nod to his own filmography, Jordan gives his usual leading man, Stephen Rea, an extended cameo as a cartoonishly hard-boiled private eye.

It all adds up to a silly, silly film but I believe it’s intentionally so. Audiences expecting more straightforward scares won’t appreciate this, no will advocates of the now hip art-house horror genre, as despite the pedigree that’s not what this is. It’s a throwback to campy, V.C Andrews-like horror melodrama. Everyone involved seems to be having fun – and truth be told so did I.

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