Greta Entertains But Falls Short of Expectations

We really out here being spooked though

by Courtney Bergsieker
Staff Spook Reviewer

Starring Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances and Isabelle Huppert as Greta, Neil Jordan’s Greta follows the story of a young, naive girl who falls into the psychotic trap of a lonely, old woman living in New York. While Huppert delivers an excellent performance and the film makes an interesting connection between the psycho-thriller and rape culture, Moretz’s performance and an exhausting plot rendered most of the film unconvincing and frustrating.

The story begins when Frances (Moretz) returns a misplaced purse from the subway to Greta (Huppert) and accepts her invitation to a cup of coffee in her Manhattan home, tucked away in a courtyard complex with ivy-covered brick walls. Frances, new to the big city and struggling with grief over the recent death of her mother, is keen to be a friend to the lonely woman who has lost her husband and seems neglected by her daughter. Frances’ roommate, Erica, questions their odd relationship, but Frances believes it to be innocent. Until, of course, she discovers that their meeting was no coincidence and she is not the only young woman to return a purse to the quiet Manhattan home. Thus begins a heinous, maddening chase where the obsessive Greta stalks Frances and the full threat of the lonely, old woman is revealed.

While the film delivered on its promise to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, Moretz’s acting is perhaps the scariest thing in Greta. While possibly the result of poor direction, scenes where Frances is fearful or upset (most of the film) are half-hearted, making Frances’ character look incapable and dumb. Paired with a plot that rests on her character making naive decisions, Moretz makes Frances look like an idiot who would take candy from a middle-aged man in a rusty van that has a bloody handprint smeared on the window. Huppert’s portrayal of Greta, however, is flawless and bone-chilling.

The plot of the film similarly stunts its allure. Greta rests on the naivety of Frances’ character, so the plot becomes one easily avoidable mistake to the next. Frequently traveling alone in the dark, going back to the old woman’s house, and returning a purse to a stranger’s house instead of just leaving it on the subway in the first place are but a few examples of Frances’ lapses in judgment that make the viewer think, It seems like you really want to be murdered.

While frustrating, Greta retains interest with its minor details. The most thought-provoking aspect of Greta is the subliminal commentary on rape culture embodied by the supporting character Erica, Frances’ best friend, played by Maika Monroe. After Frances decides she no longer wants anything to do with Greta, Erica advises her to treat the situation in the same way she deals with obsessive guys. Using terms such as “taper” and “slow fade,” Erica helps Frances gradually attempt to leave Greta, but these tactics only make her more pushy and aggressive. The girls then decide to try “it’s not you, it’s me”, hoping that the predatory Greta will move on to some other girl; scenes later, the psychotic woman drugs and kidnaps Frances. The movie ends with the best friend saving Frances from her captor by using her own methods against her and powerfully stating, “This time you get roofied”.

Although stunted by poor acting and a plot of easily avoidable conflict, Greta offers a sinister look at the fears and potential consequences of young women who want to be polite and trusting in a culture that is plagued by violence against women.

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