Neil Jordan (Breakfast on Pluto, The Butcher Boy and Company of Wolves) is well known for bringing adult fantasy/horror to the big screen. Often dovetailed with social commentary and contemporary themes, Jordan’s filmography is that of a truly visionary force in cinema. With Greta, Jordan opts for a far more mainstream thriller/horror that delights in parts, but struggles to deliver on the tension built early in proceedings.
New York City waitress Frances (Moretz) has recently moved to the city from Boston after the death of her mother and estrangement from her father. Living with her energetic and street wise flat mate Erica, Frances navigates the daily grind of her job with the social opportunities New York brings. On finding a misplaced bag on the subway, Frances decides to return the bag to its owner; a lonely widow named Greta (Huppert).
As their friendship develops the true nature of Greta’s interest in Frances becomes clear a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins; Greta’s increasingly intrusive behaviour leading Frances down a rabbit hole of fear and danger.
Greta has moments of glorious tension, with its lead performances delivering the goods throughout. Moretz one again proves why she is one of the brightest young female actors in modern American cinema. While Huppert shines, deliciously embellishing her character with a chilling theatrical psychopathy. Both central performances carry the film throughout, with Huppert and Moretz playing off each other in a glorious cat and mouse tale. That is ultimately let down by a structure that opts for a mainstream horror ending; failing to deliver on the opportunities born from the second act.
Greta is a film of two halves, that fail to come together in delivering the ending the film deserves. Act 1 is too short, not allowing the audience enough time to build the relationship that leads to the glorious tension of Act 2. This second act is where Greta is undoubtedly at its strongest, delivering a Hitchcock like tension leading to a restaurant scene that allows Huppert to display the true nature of her character. With glorious dialogue and madness that shines on screen.
Unfortunately by Act 3 the tension built is forgone, as we enter mainstream horror filmmaking. Leading to a conclusion reminiscent of Stephens Kings Misery, while lacking the psychological horror promised earlier in the film.
Despite these structural weaknesses Greta’s core performances keep you glued to the screen, providing an entertaining mix of thriller and horror, that while disjointed allows the actors to shine.
Cinematography is strong reflecting the polarised modernity of the cityscape against the dated time capsule of Greta’s life. Playing perfectly with concepts of isolation and secrecy in a bustling city where people can disappear into their own worlds. This is matched by a chilling score that builds tension in the right places and plays with its soundscape to create an immersive experience.
Greta is not Neil Jordans finest hour. With the promise of the first half, ultimately let down by the lack of creative vision inherent in the second half. However, Moretz and Huppert save Greta from obscurity. Huppert stealing the limelight with a delicious, often bonkers and psychotic character study that keeps you glued to the screen.