Published Sep 10, 2018Billed by TIFF as a "psychological thriller," the Greta viewing experience lacked any modicum of tension or suspense. Instead, the latest film from writer-director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Michael Collins) elicited uproarious laughter from the audience. Was this crafted as a campy comedy or is the film one big mistake? It doesn't really matter, because Greta kind of works.
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Frances, a young and naive New York transplant who is trying to get over the death of her mother while living it up with her rich young friend Erica (Maika Monroe). Though life in the big city is good enough for Erica, Frances is clearly struggling to get over her recent loss.
Her fate changes when she discovers a stray purse on the subway and opts to return it to its owner. Enter the film's titular Greta, a lonely widow expertly played by Isabelle Huppert. Frances and Greta appear to find what they need in each other, quickly developing a friendship that becomes a de facto mother/daughter relationship. Then one night in Greta's basement apartment, Frances discovers a cabinet full of identical copies of the same purse. Yes, it turns out Greta is both a stalker and a twisted psychopath hell-bent on kidnapping naive little girls and forcing them to spend every waking moment in uncomfortably close quarters.
With better direction and a tighter script, Greta could have been a compelling and dark examination of grief and mother-daughter bonds. Instead, the film barrels along without developing any suspense. As such, the jump scares and melodramatic score feel unearned, and everything winds up hilarious.
That's where that get-out-of-jail-free "camp" card comes into play, and we can forgive a movie's transgressions because we're having so much fun. The dialogue is clunky, there are bafflingly violent scenes that explode out of nowhere and the whole film is built around the made-up maxim "I'm like chewing gum — I tend to stick around." But the whole thing is so stupidly fun that it will certainly find plenty more enthusiastic audiences that stumble across it while drunkenly perusing their VOD cue in the middle of the night.