Living in Europe, specifically in Italy, we don’t often get the same release dates for American movies as the United States. With the film Greta (directed by Award-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan, who also directed Interview with a Vampire), it just happened that it came out in March in the States, whereas in Italy we won’t get it until late August.
However, I was lucky enough to be invited to a press screening of the film, which I was granted to review as long as I could keep my article spoiler-free. Despite not being the biggest fan of Neil Jordan, I was very curious to watch Greta, mostly because the titular character is played by Isabelle Huppert, a French actress who I consider to be the best European performer working today. Greta also stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe (It Follows).
Very quickly, Greta introduces the audience to the story, which revolves around Frances (Grace Moretz), a Bostonian girl who lives in New York with her roommate Erica (Monroe). One day, Frances finds a purse on the tube and takes it back to the owner who lost it, a widow named Greta (Huppert). Frances, who lost her mother a few years prior, befriends Greta, only to find out the woman has some dark plans in store for her!
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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My review is also available on IMDb – Greta (2019)
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Greta is a horror/thriller that wastes no time. Even before the three main characters are properly introduced, the audience witness Frances picking up the purse on her way back from work and heading home. This is the type of movie that, instead of having a recognisable build up, makes you familiar with characters and story ‘in real time’, as the plot unfolds. That’s something that, if done well, I truly love. And I think Greta does it brilliantly, especially when it comes to Frances and Huppert’s characters.
As I mentioned before, I was expecting at least one outstanding performance from this film… and I got two. Isabelle Huppert as Greta is, of course, absolutely perfect: she conveys so much with so little, she’s able to be menacing and motherly at the same time, she’s got a very psychotic mannerism that comes through only looking at the details of her performance.
At the same time, Chloe’s performance is truly solid. This is probably the role she played best in her short career and, thanks to writing and directing, she has a compelling character to play and she does so in the most convincing way possible. I’ve seen her do a great job in movies like Let Me In (2010) and Suspiria (2018), but I also found her rather annoying and unintentionally comical in most of her other performances. So, I’m glad she did so well in Greta, proving that she can do wonders when given the right direction.
Maika Monroe, however, was quite wasted in the movie. She had a secondary role, which obviously didn’t help the actress to shine, but her character was also written in a way that made her look annoying and useless (up until the end, at least).
Yet, in Greta the two good leads benefit from the great and consistent pace of the movie, which moves really fast resulting into a ride that features only a couple of minor dull moments.
The excitement coming from the fast-paced is also enhanced by an overall tense and dreadful atmosphere, with a few scenes that were truly frightening or, at least, very intense (my favourite is the “dinner scene” at the restaurant where Frances work as a waitress). Surprisingly, there are also a couple of gory sequences and the film doesn’t shy away from extremely uneasy, almost disturbing moments that work as the cherry on top in terms of tension.
Finally, the musical choices were perfect for the tone of the movie: during the runtime, classic French songs alternate with typical horror-esque music, a combination that results in a very off-beat and effective soundtrack. However, the sound design and editing for scenes without music is inexplicably amateur, to the point it becomes sloppy from time to time.
Although Greta has a few minor issues I pointed at throughout this review, what holds it back from being a truly great picture are two elements.
The first one is the story itself. A stalker-type story has been seen in movies so many times before, especially in 80s and 90s. When the plot of your movie is indistinguishable from an endless stream of similar films, as a viewer you’d expect some twist of sorts. In Greta, however, you already know from the beginning how the film will end, therefore there’s nothing surprising about its story.
The second big issue with the movie is the lack of a stylised presentation. Don’t get me wrong, Greta is well directed and most of the technical aspects (sound design and sound editing aside) are serviceable, but there’s no style to them, nothing that makes them stand out. This wouldn’t be a flaw had the plot been more interesting, but it isn’t, thus the presentation should make up for it.
These two major flaws with the movie result in an ending that feels both rushed and thrown away.
Overall, I consider Greta a good horror/thriller for fans of this kind of stories. Personally, I’m always captivated by psychotic individuals in movies, thus I really liked this one despite its problems. I think most people who’re into dark thrillers with an indie feel to them will really like Greta, at least as much as I did.
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