Movie review: Isabelle Huppert goes nuts over Chloe Grace Moretz in the thriller 'Greta'

 
 
Updated 3/1/2019 6:51 AM
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  • An older French woman (Isabelle Huppert) has designs on a younger Manhattan waitress (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) in Neil Jordan's stalker thriller "Greta."

    An older French woman (Isabelle Huppert) has designs on a younger Manhattan waitress (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) in Neil Jordan's stalker thriller "Greta." Courtesy of Focus Features

"Greta" -- ★ ★ Ĺ

Sometimes, a greasy cheeseburger hits the spot. Nothing high quality. Nothing particularly good for you. Nothing fancy. Just a cheeseburger.

Neil Jordan's "Greta" qualifies as the cheeseburgeriest thriller I've seen since 2018's "The Strangers: Prey at Night."

It won't win Oscars, unless the Academy approves categories for "Best Performance of a Dim Detective" or "Best Screenplay With More Holes Than a Machine Gun Target."

This long-fused thriller sneaks up on you. Just when you think it can't get slower or more boring, it attacks!

A sudden burst of playful suspense awkwardly inverts genre cliches, carefully avoiding the butcher knives, cheap jump-scares and heroes-resorting-to-savagery expectations in R-rated stalker films.

Instead, "Greta" (written by Jordan with Ray Wright) tries to out-DePalma Brian DePalma, especially with a daring twist on the obligatory dream sequence.

Even if these reworked devices don't quite work, thriller fans should appreciate the persistent attempts.

Courageously accomplished French actress Isabelle Huppert, never one to shy away from odd or challenging characters, plays Greta with full-throttle relish, fitting for a cheeseburgery performance where she emotionally simmers for a long, long time before flipping out.

The movie begins when naive New York newcomer Frances McCullen (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) finds a purse on a Manhattan subway car.

She takes it home, assuring her worldly roommate Erica Penn (Maika Monroe, working hard to avoid being the cliched floozy friend) she will return the purse, with cash and credit cards, to its owner.

Erica says they would be better off to put their found money to good use, like for a day spa or a good colonic.

No. Frances takes the purse to the address on the driver's license. She meets Greta Hideg, a lonely middle-aged French woman with a heavy accent, an empty nest and an even emptier heart.

The two hit it off.

New York City roommates Erica (Maika Monroe), left, and Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) find themselves in danger in "Greta."
New York City roommates Erica (Maika Monroe), left, and Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) find themselves in danger in "Greta." - Courtesy of Focus Features

Greta loves Frances' company. Frances appreciates Greta's maternal attention, especially after the recent death of her own mother.

But when Frances makes a jarring discovery in a cabinet (an early twist spoiled by trailers and commercials), she tries to ditch Greta.

Things turn grim, as telegraphed by Javier Navarrete's dark, occasionally inspired score, mixed with poorly matched non-hit pop songs.

Greta reminds Frances that she's like chewing gum: She sticks around.

Greta's sketchy background and vague motivations don't matter here. But her reported prior experience as a nurse comes in handy for cobra-strike-quick injections.

Without ruining surprises, "Greta" offers enough squeal-inducing moments to redeem its clunky start, including Jordan's bravura chase sequence: Greta sends to Frances' cellphone photos showing her closing in on the unsuspecting Erica -- but Erica can't see Greta!

Not much of this action bears up under scrutiny, yet "Greta" has great fun with a female-dominated thriller featuring inept males. (Stephen Rea plays a doofus detective. Colm Feore plays Frances' inadequate father.)

By the end, Frances would probably agree with Erica's earlier advice: Forget the purse. Use the cash to finance a good colonic.

• • •

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, ChloŽ Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Directed by: Neil Jordan

Other: A Focus Features release. Rated R for violence. 98 minutes

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