Any long time reader of Oh! That Film Blog will know that I have an aversion to anything in cinema that is overly twee or quaint, and because of this, my instinctive love and fandom for Isabelle Huppert is nothing short of rampant. The iconic French actress has made a career out of revelling in the dark, sinister, unsettling and downright uncomfortable, and I am delighted to see that she is being tapped up for more English language opportunities in the wake of her Best Actress Oscar nomination for 2016’s Elle.
Greta tells the story of Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young waitress living in New York who sparks an unusual friendship with a woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert) after finding her handbag on the subway and returning it to her. Initially thankful for the relationship as a way of coping with her own mother’s recent passing, Frances soon begins to realise that all is not as it seems with Greta, and what follows is a tense, almost horror punctuated narrative that goes from creep stalker flick to full blown jump scare thriller.
The first thing to say is that, being totally honest, Greta isn’t really that great of a film. The story beats are familiar to anyone who knows these types of thrillers, the plot machinations are a little bit too predictable and the whole thing just feels a tad on the silly side. All that being said, however, if you are looking for something slightly out of the ordinary that has a knowing sense of humour to accompany its more shocking moments, then a lot of fun can be had watching this movie. After all, who says a movie has to be a ten out of ten in order to be enjoyable?
In an era in which the horror and thriller genres are asking audiences more and more to switch on and tap in to the deeper meanings and metaphors within narratives, it can sometimes be refreshing and entertaining to be able to sit back and just watch something creepy and tense unfold without having to do hours of homework afterwards. Greta is very much an example of that, an old school, non supernatural edge of the seater that feels like a sort of dumbed down version of something like Misery. It won’t stay in the memory as long as that particular 1990 classic, but the vibes are definitely comparable. Something I didn’t expect from the film was its wry, self knowing sense of humour. The audience in my cinema laughed out loud more times than a generic psychological thriller would inspire, and it’s important to note that we weren’t laughing *at* the film, we were very much laughing *with* it.
As Frances, Chloe Grace Moretz gives an effective portrayal of an ‘out of town’ girl in New York, too trusting and too willing to see the good in people to the extent that it gets her in to unimaginable trouble. Moretz evokes a girl next door vibe in the film that makes her very likeable, someone that the audience genuinely worries about even if we are having a good time watching all kinds of madness unfolding.
And speaking of madness, there is no debating the fact that Isabelle Huppert is the unnerving star of the show. I almost want to say that Greta is ‘beneath’ Huppert, but time and time again she has shown in her filmography that she doesn’t give a flip what people think, and she does whatever the hell she wants. Huppert takes risks and lends her talents to pictures and stories that hardly any other performer of her calibre would, and I really love and admire her for that. The character and the film in general is nowhere near as intellectually stimulating or psychologically nuanced as her top tier work like The Piano Teacher, La Cérémonie and the aforementioned Elle, but the conviction that Huppert brings to the role, the sense of abandon that she displays with regard to ‘looking silly’, is a joy to watch. She is constantly and unjustly referred to as being the ‘French Meryl Streep’. One, I don’t enjoy those kinds of comparisons. Two, if I did, I’d have it the other way around.
Together, Moretz and Huppert are clearly having a good time acting out this crazy story. It’s hard to put a label or term on their chemistry simply because of the changing nature of the narrative, but whatever is happening, no matter how pulpy and borderline trashy the plot might be, it’s still fun to see these actresses on screen.
Overall, Greta is far from the best film I’ve seen this year so far, but it’s probably one of the few that I wouldn’t mind watching again at some point. A solid thriller with more than enough jump scares to get an excitable cinema crowd going. Other examples in the genre have probably executed the blend of camp and chilling more effectively, but to be honest, they don’t have Isabelle Huppert. If there were any actress whose name on a film alone warrants a viewing, it is her.