Welcome to Double Take, a brand new collaborative writing series from the On The Clock team, in which two or more members of our writing committee review the same film, either with a similar or different opinion, to give the reader multiple stances on the subject being covered. Today’s article is on Greta, the new Isabelle Huppert Slasher Flick, which opens in theaters nationwide today!
British director Neil Jordan has been sharing macabre, adult fairy tales for decades, from The Company of Wolves to Byzantium. This time around, his bedtime story is much more grounded in realistic horror. What if that sweet old lady you met the other day was in fact a stalker? And not just any stalker, but a psychologically damaged one? And best of all – what if that stalker was played by a critically praised, award winning icon of French cinema?
Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a transplant to New York City from her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, and lives with her best friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe) in an expensive loft located in Tribeca. One day, while riding the subway, Frances finds an abandoned purse and returns it to the rightful owner, an older widow named Greta Hideg (Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert) with a love of classical music. Despite warnings from Erica, Frances quickly becomes friends with the eccentric Greta. They bond over piano, pets, and losing loved ones. The situation, however, takes a turn for the worse when Greta discovers a cabinet full of purses, all the same as the one she found on the train…
And from there, we’re off to the races. Greta‘s achievement as an enjoyable, trashy thriller comes largely from the fact that Huppert is clearly having a ball in the titular role. She’s warm, friendly, disturbed, intimidating, frightening, even comedic. There’s a sheer joy to her insanity that resonates on screen from the fact that she’s just having so much fun. She chews up all the scenery and spits it back out effortlessly. What makes her all the more disturbing is how honest Huppert is, even with all the melodramatics going on. All of Greta’s actions make sense, and seeing her act generally pleasant most of the time makes her actions even more frightening. It’s arguable that the character is the most fucked-up person she’s ever played, and yes, I’m including her roles in Elle and The Piano Teacher in this.
With all the extravagance of Huppert’s role, it’s a miracle that Moretz and Monroe make any impression at all. Moretz, fresh off her supporting role in the re-imagining of Suspiria, is perfectly cast in the role of “frightened victim”. She’s a deer in headlights, struck in awe by Greta’s personality and antics. Monroe, meanwhile, isn’t afraid to steal scenes from her costars, with breezy sarcasm and a dominating attitude.
These three distinct personalities are aided by Jordan’s vision for the film, which engages in the classic tropes of thriller films, while playing with them at the same time. It’s hard to not think about celebrated stalker films like Fatal Attraction and Single White Female while watching Greta and Frances play their game of cat-and-mouse across the city. What ultimately sets the film apart is the fact that Greta plays with a mother/daughter dynamic. Frances needs a surrogate mother, Greta needs a surrogate daughter.
Greta is a masterpiece of sorts. Neil Jordan’s latest venture into the surreal, is an audacious little thriller, that will leave audiences with pure joy and spurts of un-ironic giggles. This stalker flick is a hilarious homage to 90’s slasher films, featuring all too familiar cliches and tropes, used to the most prestigious degree possible. Known for directing cult classics like Interview with the Vampire (starring the one and only Mr. Scientology), Greta is a supposed return to form to Neil’s more traditional routes. Creating and exploring different genres back in the 90’s, Jordan’s vast cinematic appeal returns to his sweet spot, to create a silly product, that prominently never fails to entertain.
Destined to be a cult classic, Greta is a perfect example of a film that consistently never feels boring, and always has something to offer. Either if it’s the hilarious one note performance from Isabelle Huppert, a stalker/sociopath who charms her victims with her cunningly deceitful and mesmerizing dialogue, all the way to the film’s dramatic score and direction, material is always thrown at the audience, regardless if it’s bad or good. That’s the main pro of Greta. It’s a film that doesn’t give two shit’s about the audience, critics, or any person in between, and focuses on the pure entertainment factor of it all.
What’s my favorite part of the film, you may ask? Maika Monroe’s and Zawe Ashton’s performances. Both supporting ladies gave excellently detailed and self-aware roles that turn a surface level stalker-thriller, varied within overly-saturated tropes, into a product that is simply elevated by the pure wit and charm of their mannerisms, voice, and on-set presence. Ashton’s role (in which she only appeared in one scene mind you) gave the film a steady balance of what should or shouldn’t be taken seriously. Her performance cleaned up the loose ends in regards to the film’s tone, creating the film’s perpetual motion and pace into full force. Monroe’s performance on the other side of the spectrum, is a ridiculous trash fire of the typically known sidekick caricature. Using lines such as “Did I just snort crystal meth?” and “I will dry hump you right now if those flowers are for me” to her most pinnacle advantage, Maika’s uses the horrendous screenplay as ammunition for her terrific portrayal of the typically known slasher trope.
The only real downside to Greta is that it didn’t go far enough. Unlike Peter Strickland’s In Fabric (with Giallo), Greta feels nowhere reminiscent of 90’s cinema in spirit. If only there was an added visual flare, consistent directing, and a more self-aware tone throughout the piece, maybe Greta could have become one of the greatest pieces of self-aware media ever put to screen. Well atlas, the past is in the past, and there’s nothing to do now, but do one simple little thing….
SEE GRETA (2019)