“She’s not your mother.”
Hovering over the edge of no return, Neil Jordan‘s Greta is a dark and occasionally humorous tale of one woman’s attempt to battle her weighted sense of loneliness.
Isabelle Huppert is a force to be reckoned with regarding both beauty and awareness. Boasting a resume that is equal parts long and diverse, as well as rich in complexity, the Oscar nominee approaches the title character with simplicity and grace. Her movements are forever intentional as she navigates the fragile sense of sanity that rests deep within the mind of our villain.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Greta, in all its glory, comes to fruition when a young, naive college graduate (Chloë Grace Moretz) decides to return a purse that was accidentally left behind on the subway. This small act of kindness ignites a strong friendship between Moretz’s Frances and the purse’s owner, Greta, a rather peculiar pianist. Together they bond over family, cuisine, and their love for animals - that is until their magical friendship takes a dark turn and Frances finds herself at the center of Greta’s entire existence.
Moretz does well opposite Huppert. Though her Frances doesn’t yearn for empathy, it is her soft and even delivery that allows the film to maintain its sense of mystery. Frances, an old soul through and through, never hides her faults, confiding in her new friend about her mother, her transition from Boston to New York City, and her tendency to stick around (you know, like gum).
When she uncovers one of the many unsettling things about her new friend, Frances’ faults comes into full view, allowing the story to propel forward as viewers embark on an unusually thrilling ride of lies, manipulation, harassment, and violence - all backed by the workings of Chopin.
Jordan uses an uneven script to his advantage, bringing forth a sense of unknowing as the story ramps up and slows down with the flip of a wrist. The dialogue, at times painfully sluggish, prevents the complete package from excelling to the level of its performances. However, that’s okay. While the film could (and probably should) have been something entirely different, the third act takes the ball and runs. Sure you might be smirking when you should be gasping, but there is something in the tone that allows you to enjoy the ridiculousness of the entire situation as for many it will remind you of that one ex.
These conditions accumulate to form an experience that will have genre fans beaming with delight. Also, seeing someone at Huppert’s level play a ruthlessly psychotic stage five clinger is nothing short of ingenious.
*This review originally appeared as part of our 2018 TIFF coverage.