My notes on Greta, opening on April 18.
Every few years an impulse strikes Neil Jordan to make something relatively straightforward in the genre department, with an American setting (rather wonkily imagined) and a strong leading lady … the psychic Annette Bening thriller In Dreams, the Jodie Foster Death Wish makeover The Brave One, and now this stalker/confinement gothic in which tiny, chic, faux-French Isabelle Huppert – at one point she drops her usual purr and snarls in guttural Hungarian – becomes surrogate mother to naïve waitress Chloë Grace Moretz and then sets about owning her via stalker tactics and ultimately locking her up in a literal toybox in a room hidden behind her piano.
Scripted by Jordan and Ray Wright – the man who gave you the Pulse remake, the Crazies remake and Case 39 – this is a collection of old cods as a thriller, so slavishly following the structure of Psycho that we have to peg key supporting players Maika Monroe and Stephen Rea as Vera Miles and Martin Balsam, while Huppert’s Greta is among the oddest, most credible scramblings of Norman and his mother the movies have yet offered. As always in stalker movies, all the way back to Cape Fear, the early stretches as the menace moves threateningly into the frame of the victim’s life without actually breaking the law are more suspenseful than the latterday shrieking, gore-drenched confrontations. An early scene in which Greta (Huppert) shows up at the swank Manhattan eaterie where Frances (Moretz) is a waitress and is initially shielded by the pompous maitre d’ (Jeff Hiller) because she has a reservation is deliciously awkward – but devolves too soon into the sort of public place screaming match that’d force even the shrugging cops here to intervene.
It uses a few dream sequences to blur the issue, perhaps copping the device from Audition, but then delivers a moment of ridiculous but entertaining game-changing violence which isn’t instantly revoked and requires a sinister purple glove be added to the villain’s ensemble for the rest of the film. Nonsensical it might be, but Huppert, Moretz and Monroe are splendidly committed to it – with Moretz having to do the most heavy lifting as the doormat, even to the extent of being guilt-tripped into several ‘one last meetings’ with the obvious nutcase and taking some of the worst possible advice from people in her life. On her mid-career roll, Huppert is just enjoying herself here – especially in a routine about noisy neighbours that’s more sinister the second time around and when she starts dancing in her stockinged feet while assailing folk who dare to intervene in her imaginary doll’s house.
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