Greta

 

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A work for film buffs designed to give them a good time.

 

Greta

Chloë Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert

 

Neil Jordan's latest film is set in New York and the titular role, played by Isabelle Huppert, is that of a lonely French woman living in that city. Greta is a character not without real-life parallels, somebody who attaches herself to strangers and is then difficult to shake off. Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young woman working as a waitress in a posh restaurant and when she finds Greta's bag on the subway she returns it to her. Having lost her own mother, Frances initially accepts the friendship that Greta offers. But then she realises that there is a dark side to this woman and breaks off the connection only to find that Greta is now stalking her.

 

Being the tale of an unbalanced woman this could have been told as a realistic drama, but the author of Greta, Ray Wright, is not doing that. Instead, he develops a slow-building narrative that is nevertheless from early on told in inverted commas. With Jordan collaborating on the screenplay, Greta knowingly offers a genre piece to be enjoyed for being just that. We are not asked to believe in the tale but to enjoy it as an entertainment in which we recognise all the ingredients from other films. This is undertaken in a way that is well directed, well-photographed (Seamus McGarvey) and well played. However, as an offbeat exercise for the great Isabelle Huppert, it is less rewarding that the whole-hearted melodrama of Elle (2016). Even so, she is spot on in exuding menace through the implacable look on her face as she haunts Frances by standing stock still outside the restaurant. Furthermore, Greta is by no means a one-woman show - Moretz as an innocent far removed from the kind of roles with which she made her name is on her best form.

 

Indeed, for two-thirds of its length, Greta works well on its own terms, terms that are clearly defined in the music score by Javier Navarrete. That applies both to its emphatic underlining of Greta's true nature as soon as Frances has doubts and to its incorporation of Liszt's ‘Liebestraum No. 3’ also heard on the piano that Greta plays (this music popular from way back sounds suitably tongue-in-cheek in this context). Mid-way a cheat regarding a dream sequence can be forgiven as an echo of a trick familiar from other movies, but the film's later stages work less well. Going all out is not in itself inappropriate in this context, but the most gory image proves to be risible and what happens to Stephen Rea's investigator plays as a feeble variation on Martin Balsam's fate in Psycho rather than as an effective reference to it.

 

Late on the film seems to signal impending closure by bringing back images comparable to those seen at the start and reprising on the soundtrack the song 'Where Were You' performed by Julie London. In fact, this would have made for a downbeat but telling ending, yet instead the movie goes on with additional footage leading to a climactic confrontation which ultimately encourages laughs. Others may feel that that is in keeping, but for me it signals the fact that what has been pleasingly relishable hokum has become instead silly - enough so indeed to make me question why Jordan and his predominantly female cast (there's a brief cameo for Zawe Ashton better known for her theatre and TV work) should have bothered. Even so, for much of the time Greta is enjoyable, a film for a fun night out aimed at providing just that. Consequently, my rating may be rather harsh but I was aware of a strong feeling of disappointment throughout the last quarter of an hour.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea, Zawe Ashton, Thaddeus Daniels, Jeff Hiller, Parker Sawyers, Raven Dauda.

 

Dir Neil Jordan, Pro Sidney Kimmel, John Penotti, James Flynn, Lawrence Bender and Karen Richards, Screenplay Ray Wright and Neil Jordan, Ph Seamus McGarvey, Pro Des Anna Rackard, Ed Nick Emerson, Music Javier Navarrete, Costumes Joan Bergin.

 

Focus Features/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Showbox/Screen Ireland/Metropolitan Films-Universal Pictures.
98 mins. Ireland/USA. 2018. Rel: 19 April 2019. Cert. 15.