A lonely elderly woman attempts to make new friends by strategically leaving purses on public transportation in Greta, a thriller from director Neil Jordan (The Good Thief, The Brave One). That bizarre setup leads to an improbable series of events in the R-rated drama opening in theaters on March 1, 2019.
Isabelle Huppert plays the titular character and Chloe Grace Moretz is Frances, the sweet and innocent good samaritan who basically steps into the Twilight Zone when she enters Greta’s life. Poor Frances is still mourning the loss of her mother and adjusting to a move to a Tribeca loft with her best friend Erica (Maika Monroe) when she spots a purse on the subway. Frances, being a kind (and ridiculously naïve) person, personally returns the bag to its owner.
What Frances believes is just a chance meeting turns out to be something much more sinister. Greta’s a scheming, manipulative, and disturbed individual who inserts herself into Frances’ life. Greta’s obsessive personality quickly wears on Frances, and it’s not long before she realizes Greta’s unstable.
Much of what Frances learns in the film’s first act is given away in the trailer, yet Huppert reels us in as she subtly reveals just how deranged Greta is. That something’s off about Greta is evident from the character’s first scene, yet Huppert plays it restrained and gives her a certain dignity that initially disguises the serious mental issues.
Moretz is fine as the wide-eyed victim who’s so desperate for a mother figure that she fails to read the warning signs in this new relationship. Frances is never quite the sympathetic figure she needs to be to make this thriller work. She’s simply not that interesting a foe for Greta.
There are genuinely intense moments in Greta. There are also multiple frustrating scenes in which supporting characters, including cops, act as though the idea of a young woman being stalked is such an alien concept it shouldn’t be taken seriously. There’s one scene in which no one reacts to the presence of a clearly mentally ill Greta invading Frances’ life that’s not only improbable but just plain ridiculous.
Huppert delivers a captivating performance, even as the film’s shift in tone slides toward the absurd. There’s a delicious moment in which Huppert performs a giddy little jig at an entirely inappropriate moment that’s nearly worth the price of a ticket. Huppert’s such an incredible actress that it’s possible to forgive and forget much of the first two acts and just wallow in the craziness of what goes down in act three.
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and disturbing images
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Running Time: 98 minutes