Isabelle Huppert Goes Cuckoo Bananas, But Not as Cuckoo Bananas as Usual, in the Flawed-But-Fun ‘Greta’

Let’s be honest. The main appeal of Greta is to see our girl Isabelle Huppert do what she does best: snap. Despite the film’s numerous issues, the ticket price is in fact well-worth the opportunity to bask in the unbridled power of one of the greatest working actresses viciously flipping a restaurant table over in response to getting ghosted (i.e. snap). And that’s just the beginning, baby!

Greta centers on Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a naive young woman who waitresses at an upscale restaurant and then commutes home to a perplexingly swanky apartment that she shares with her roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe). How do these twenty-somethings afford a luxury flat in New York City? Why do they have a landline phone? We’ll never know; these things are never addressed! On one of her evening subway commutes, Frances notices an emerald-green leather purse, left mistakenly (?) behind on a seat. Finding the ID inside, she returns it to the mysterious Greta Hideg’s address, only to come face to face with … Isabelle Huppert?! Yes, Huppert plays Greta, a widowed piano teacher (cool The Piano Teacher reference) who misses her daughter, away at college. With Frances reeling from the recent loss of her own mother, and with Greta’s being a mother herself, it’s easy to see why the two quickly latch on to each other, forming a symbiotic relationship — until Greta twists it into the parasitic.
Though Greta does play in to certain tropes associated with psychological thrillers (the jump scare stingers are relentless), every once in a while a genuinely well-crafted subversion will sneak in to elevate the material. The talent of leads Huppert and Moretz also bolster the weak script, eminently embodying their respective roles of cat and mouse. Moretz is fresh off a stellar 2018 for her indie street cred, what with Suspiria and The Miseducation of Cameron Post — her project choices have become increasingly more interesting as she matures and gains more control over her career.
Contrasting America’s sweetheart Moretz, we have Huppert, France’s ice queen. With any other actress in the role, perhaps I would’ve bought into Greta’s initial maternal schtick. But I’ve seen Huppert in Michael Haneke’s aforementioned The Piano Teacher (2001) and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016). These are two profoundly disturbing films that focus on sadomasochism through a woman’s lens; they’re intricate character studies, entrees drenched in dark, lumpy gravy, best consumed alone in the flickering light of a single candle. Compared to them, Greta is a frothy ice cream sundae topped with a caustic Maraschino cherry. That is to say, it’s a fun and messy treat to share with friends!
Okay, okay, I suppose it’s not fair to compare this American studio thriller to French arthouse dramas just because Huppert happens to go batshit in both. Greta is in no way attempting to be prestige cinema, and at times it seems to know how ridiculous it is — there’s a way-too-long scene of Erica being followed by Greta that only works if you imagine it as an extended It Follows parody (also starring Monroe). But as campy as it is, I can’t help but feel that the film could’ve gone even farther, especially in the hands of Neil Jordan, the man who gifted us Interview With The Vampire and Byzantium. Greta should’ve been a vampire and that’s that!
Greta is now playing in US cinemas, and is scheduled to be released on April 19th in the UK.

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