By Jim Slotek
There must be something in the air that’s ushering in an echo-boom of decades-old zeitgeist movies. Whether you loved it or hated it, it’s hard to deny Green Book earned its monicker of “Driving Mr. Daisy.”
And now comes the stalker-horror-thriller Greta, in which no less a couple of names than director Neil Jordan and co-star Isabelle Huppert take their cue from much better this-person’s-crazy predecessors like Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Sleeping with the Enemy and, of course, Fatal Attraction. It occurred to me part-way through that studios largely seemed to stop making these films early in this century.
In the case of the misbegotten Greta, the harmless-looking friend/psycho is Greta Hedig (Huppert), an ostensible French woman of slightly more than a certain age, who lives a reclusive life in a dusty, cluttered Brooklyn apartment, occasionally teaching piano (hey, didn’t she star in The Piano Teacher?) listening to and playing Franz Liszt and sighing over a daughter who lives far away.
Enter Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), an earnest, well-meaning college kid from out of town who finds Greta’s purse on a subway seat and – against the advice of her more city-smart roommate (Maika Monroe) – tracks down the woman, who immediately initiates a friendship, quickly positioning herself as the solicitous, loving grandmother Moretz never had. (Francesrecently lost her mother, and all she has left is a tenuous relationship with her well-meaning dad, played by Colm Feore in a role that consists mainly of sending concerned phone texts).
As happens (if you’ve seen any of the films I mentioned earlier), the psycho in question can only maintain an adorable façade for so long before becoming clingy, then aggressively clingy, then straight-out nuts moving from furious vocal outbursts to violent ones. And so goes Greta.
Huppert is an actress of great depth, so playing a monster in the shallow end of the pool is no great accomplishment. But she is great at staring with piercing intent. And she knows how to make a scene.
There are other tropes Jordan borrows (this is such a strange film for him to be doing), including the dead-but-not-really monster moment, and the person or persons who figure out Greta’s secret and that’s pretty much it for them.
Plot holes, we got ‘em. For a mystery woman, Greta’s been living in her place a long time but has no neighbours to attest to her activities. At one point, she’s arrested for a violent stalking scene in a public place and then released. Later, the police seem to have no idea where to find her. Damn, forgot to get a place-of-residence or phone number or anything.
No one involved in this movie will be placing it at the top of their resume. Though she finds some spine in the preposterous last act, Moretz’s character in particular is pretty much of a mouseburger, going along with events and fretting.
In any case, point taken. Do not talk to strangers in New York – especially elder French women.
Greta. Directed by Neil Jordan. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert and Maika Monroe. Opens wide Friday, March 1.