Movie Review: “Greta” – Don’t Take The Bait

Written by Jeremiah Greville March 26, 2019

There was so much potential for Greta. It’s a female-led thriller staring an older actress stalking a younger one. There’s no male gaze or uncomfortable gender moralizing. Neither of the main characters is a villain or a victim because she’s a woman, which is still a rare thing to say in modern film. But the final product didn’t live up to the hype. It’s a thriller without the thrills, and doesn’t live up to even the most middling of its genre contemporaries. At times, it’s downright uncomfortable to watch, with long stretches of quiet conversation that go nowhere. It’s a film without weight, purpose, or style. It will disappear from theatres without trace. That, however, may not be such a bad fate.

*Please note this review contains mild spoilers*

Greta stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Frances, a young woman who finds a purse on the subway in New York City. After tracking down the owner, an older woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert), the two become friends. However, Frances cuts ties with Greta after finding out the older woman has been leaving purses all across town. In turn, Greta begins obsessively stalking and harassing Frances, forcing the young woman to take drastic measures. Greta also stars Maika Monroe as Erica, Frances’ roommate, and Colm Feore as Frances’ father. It’s written by Neil Jordan and Ray Wright, directed by Neil Jordan, and is as boring as a beige carpet in a beige room.

“You hardly know her.”

The best thing that I can say about Greta is that it doesn’t waste time getting into the plot. There’s no long, lingering set-up or overblown character intro. We get right into the premise with Frances returning the purse to Greta in the first few minutes, and it isn’t long before the eventual turn that sets the darker elements in motion. That’s a genuinely good thing these days, and something more films should do. From my description above, you may think that I’ve spoiled half the film already. But all of those events take place within the first act. If you’ve seen a movie before, you can probably guess where it’s going from there, but it’s commendable that Greta gets down to the action so quickly.

It’s just a damn shame that there’s no action to get to. Greta is dull and lifeless, and sitting through it was a chore. Have you ever met a person who talks softly to demand your attention, then says nothing of value once they have it? That’s this film. Every scene is two characters talking and nothing happening. There’s supposed to be tension in the dialogue, but it never simmers or comes to a boil. There’s barely even a score throughout most of the film, so these low-energy moments feel even more empty as they pile upon one another. Greta is just a series of floral prints (seriously, there are so many! What’s up with that?) whispering at one another. Yes, there’s blood and violence later on, but it’s not worth the trip.

“That’s it, it’s getting weird.”

It would help if there was one element I could easily recommend, but there isn’t. The script is bland, and poorly sold by the actors. When there are funny lines or clever moments, they’re either undercut or poorly delivered. Every joke is butchered, and every twist is met with a quiet sigh. The best scene in the film, set at a diner, is followed shortly after by the worst scene in the film, set at a church. Greta is the kind of movie that’s fun to yell at, but not much fun otherwise. You’ll be infuriated by the decisions the characters make, and mad at the filmmakers for putting it on screen in the first place. There’s very little artistry or flair in the direction or cinematography — it feels compromised and half-baked, like an idea only partly realized.

The acting doesn’t save the film either. Moretz feels completely miscast as Frances, a milquetoast waitress with a heart of gold. She’s known for playing characters with an edge, and here she’s completely rudderless. This feels strange to say, but the film probably would have been greatly improved had the filmmakers simply swapped Moretz’ roll with Maika Monroe, who plays her feisty, no-nonsense roommate. But Moretz is the bigger star, of course, and her top-billing makes sense. It’s unclear if she should shoulder most of the blame, or if it should fall to writer-director Jordan. The end result is a mess — now we’re just trying to find out who’s at fault.

“Everyone needs a friend.”

But wait — you might be thinking — what about the title character, Greta? Well, you’d be right to think that Isabelle Huppert’s performance is the best in the film, but it doesn’t save the production. At times Huppert is terrifically menacing and captivating, and she excels at exuding mystery and barely-hidden malevolence. But then there are the times where she seems to be doing her best Tommy Wiseau impression, and the whole thing falls apart. Her performance is the primary reason to see the film, but stuck with boring dialogue and dreary staging, it’s like a sports car stuck in neutral. She’s never let loose.

And all of that is before they dragged poor Colm Feore into the mix. Yes, that Colm Feore. Canadian Icon Colm Feore. That poor, poor man. Luckily, he’s not in this film for very long and escapes mostly unscathed. I hope he got paid well. Greta is a strange film to criticize because it’s simply a strange film. There’s a slap-shod feeling to whole thing, as if the writers and directors weren’t sure of themselves and desperately needed some outside source to take the reigns. There’s a messy dream sequence halfway through the film that’s so insulting you’ll think you’ve travelled back in time. There’s also a series of bizarre over-dubbing issues throughout that are too glaring not to notice. The whole thing ends up seeming cheap and amateurish.

“What do I tell her?”

But really, it’s just a waste. There’s a good performance from Huppert buried under the weight of the script, and an interesting idea about dangerous obsession. It would have been nice to see those things in a better film. The themes are deep, but the approach is shallow. Instead of diving in, Greta spends all of it’s time in the kiddie end of the pool, barely getting wet. I can’t fully knock the film because I know there are many who may enjoy it — but there is better stuff out there. Greta is an awkward thanksgiving conversation with your family. It’s a lukewarm bath without bubbles. It’s a slightly-damp and significantly-limp handshake. It’s not good enough to spend your money on, but may entertain on Netflix. The first poster for the film, seen below, says it all: don’t take the bait.

But do take the advice.

My Rating: 4.5/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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