“GRETA” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is now getting its wide theatrical release on March 1st in the states. From director Neil Jordan, the story follows a young woman named Frances played by Chloë Grace Moretz. After finding a purse on the subway she forms an unexpected friendship with an older woman named Greta played by Isabelle Huppert. It seems like an innocent relationship at first. But doesn’t take long before this young woman learns there is something deeply wrong with Greta’s mental stability, as well as her intentions for their newly found friendship.
I’m always on board for a tense mystery/thriller. The trailer for this one instantly appealed to me. It built up some expectations and after watching, I must say I was more than satisfied with what the movie provided. I think this was certainly a mass consumable thriller. It wasn’t as dark in tone as say “Misery” or “Prisoners” was. But it wasn’t overly lighthearted either. It’s R-rated but it’s a tame rating in my opinion. However, I do think there is more than enough quality in the genre elements to appeal to those who love darker thrillers. As well as those who want some suspense without the shock value visuals. Meaning this movie has a little something for everyone.
It has a condensed run-time. The story gets moving quickly and with a small character count a bulk of the time was able to focus on the two leads. As well as the creation of and the inevitable collapse of their relationship. We get to learn the layers of their backstories which provides more weight to their tense and often turbulent chemistry. Everything seems innocent and sweet early on. Then like the flip of a switch, it turns on the intensity and it had me invested. There were some moments that felt familiar to past films, and some character decisions that were questionable. But it was surprisingly minimal for a story like this. There were even times it felt aware of this formulaic path with the writing using it to craft some genuine misdirection that I had a good time with.
This story doesn’t try to take you down a dark and sinister rabbit hole filled with demented tropes. Instead it takes you down a dark and sinister story that felt grounded in reality. Sure, there are some conveniences, but this felt like something that could very much actually happen to anyone. Which made it feel more authentic, and more compelling. It doesn’t try to weave in too much misdirection. Nor does it try to lay on a ton of late plot twists. It takes itself seriously and uses practical situations to build the ominous and tension filled moments and they worked for me.
The script also works in some genuine charm. It creates a natural sense-of-humor for the characters that made them feel like real everyday people and it think it worked perfectly for building a connection to the story. Much of the humor this film splashes in was worked into the flow of the dialogue. It all felt nicely timed to create a smooth wave of emotional responses while watching which I think helped make this such an engaging story to follow the characters through without sacrificing its ominous vibe. Because the movie does maintain a strong foreboding uneasiness to the atmosphere that I felt was well-crafted and complemented the story-line perfectly.
Tension is routinely built through the character performances. Director Neil Jordan maneuvers the characters on-screen perfectly to capture the intensity of their expressions. He did a great job of showcasing the energized chemistry between Huppert and Moretz which made their relationship feel like the true emotional trigger this movie intended. But he had a lot of help from Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz because I think they were both excellent in their roles and perfectly cast. They brought already solid material on paper up a few notches and infused the characters with all the emotional layers that were needed.
Moretz was more than capable in this role. She effectively captured in the innocence of the character in the first-act. She also felt sincere as she experiences a wave of torment from this older woman who is relentlessly stalking her. She deals with fear, anxiety, anger, desperation and so many other emotions and Moretz felt natural in the part making her very easy to connect with. Maika Monroe was a smaller character but she left a solid imprint. I don’t want to say she was the comedic-relief, but she kind of was at times. But to me she was also the grounded character that splashed in with normality during all the craziness of the story-line and I think her overall arc for a side character was nicely crafted.
The true star however, and the reason you should go see this movie is Isabelle Huppert as Greta. She was fantastic. Her demeanor is so unassuming and when the layers of her character peel back and things get darker, Huppert knocks it out of the park. She was able to create uneasiness and dread with her eyes alone and her in this role is what makes this movie a success. You can see her investment in the character, and it makes the personality swings realistic in a very creepy way. From simply looking at her she would seem like an easy woman to overpower but she is smart, cunning, and always a step ahead. Huppert captured all of this this perfectly and I can already feel this as a potentially undermentioned performance for 2019.
Overall, I have a great time with this movie. It was able to lock me in and take me on a ride filled with suspense and uneasiness. It does have some similarities, and a couple plot conveniences that will be noticeable to some. But regardless, I think it’s worth checking out. The performances are fantastic, and the story is well-written. It knows what it wants to accomplish, and it succeeds. It could have gone a little darker in tone to earn its R-rating but as it was, it creates an enjoyable thriller that doesn’t rely on simple jump-scares, but instead relies on the range of its cast.
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