The appeal of Irish director Neil Jordan’s latest film lies largely within its self-awareness. Greta takes absolutely preposterous twists and turns, but the film leans into them so gleefully that one can’t help but just buckle up and enjoy the raucous ride.
Greta follows a young woman, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), who has just moved from her hometown of Boston to her best friend’s loft in New York City. Upon finding a lost handbag on the subway train, Frances returns the purse to its owner Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a lonely French widow with a penchant for the piano and a soft spot for visitors. What unfolds is a story that begins with a peculiar bond in the wake of loss, only to build tension that eventually explodes into a full-blown fatal attraction thriller.
As Greta shifts gears from run-of-the-mill stalker territory into preposterous, pulpy deliciousness with wild abandon, it’s Huppert that will keep one’s eyes locked to the screen. Her range continues to be limitless as she goes from the sweet, sad lady next door to deranged killer, slipping seamlessly back and forth between the two throughout. Moretz continues to prove that she’s a force to be reckoned with, hot off her Grand Jury Prize win from Sundance earlier this year for The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Huppert and Moretz are a delightful pair on screen, with Frances’ vulnerability and Greta’s manipulative maternal appeal.
Javier Navarrete’s original score along with some killer soundtrack tunes create a symphony that’s both absolute trash and a priceless treasure. Greta’s piano serenades, within the facade of safety and sophistication of her home, strike a shocking dissonant chord with the enigmatic beats that pulse while she stalks Frances through the streets of the city.
Greta is the urban version of HBO’s Sharp Objects without the faux southern sweetness and the bond of actual motherhood. This surge of thrillers focused around female relationships is such a vital influx to the representation of women characters and the breadth of their range when actually given a wide berth. Women can have complex relationships with one another that don’t involve men. Women can be the hero, the victim and the villian all in one story. And obsession isn’t always about romance.
The most pleasantly surprising thing about Greta is not Huppert’s terrifying purr as she tends to her own severed finger, but rather the fact that the director provides these women with the opportunity to be all things in this film. These female characters befriend, confide in, console, terrorize and save one another, and the men are sidelined, left to observe and take notes. This bonkers film isn’t just a horror story about the worst that could happen when you try to return a lost handbag, it’s a statement about the power of women to lose, to love, to hurt and to heal.
Greta’s biggest asset is that it’s a film that relishes in its own absurdity. Shots of Greta standing ominously on every corner, and a disturbing scene with a cabinet full of matching “lost” purses, are some of the most delightful moments of maniacal wickedness on display. But the film’s biggest strength is not the cat-and-mouse thrills, but rather the exploration of the depth and power of female bonds.
Beth McDonough (@bmacduhnuh) is a full-time freelance writer and MA student in the greater Pittsburgh area. You can usually find her reading an Agatha Christie novel or talking about movies on Twitter.