Look who’s stalking: The great Isabelle Huppert slums in humdrum film ‘Greta’
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Come on. You can’t be THAT dumb.
Not even in a movie such as this one.
Even some of the best stalker-psycho-horror films occasionally require a character or two to do something really stupid, and we’re OK with that because we’re having such a bloody good time — but in Neil Jordan’s stylish and initially promising “Greta,” the wheels come flying off down the home stretch when just about everyone, INCLUDING THE STALKER, behaves like an idiot.
It’s hard to stay on the edge of your seat when you’re throwing your arms up in frustration every two minutes and trying to stifle the urge to talk back to the screen.
This feels like such a wasted opportunity, given director/co-writer Jordan’s past accomplishments such as “The Crying Game,” “Interview with a Vampire” and “The Good Thief,” not to mention the casting of legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert as the mad and possibly murderous villain and the talented young Chloe Grace Moretz as our heroine.
All the pieces are in place, to quote a certain Chicago Bears coach from a previous era. So it’s dang shame when the completed jigsaw puzzle reveals nothing more than a glossy B-movie that sputters to a howler of a conclusion.
Moretz plays the sweet and slightly naïve Frances, who has recently moved to New York and lives with her best friend Erica (Maika Monroe) in a gorgeous and spacious apartment. (Erica comes from a bit of money — which is convenient for the set design team on this movie.)
One day Frances finds a stylish green handbag on a train and decides to personally return the purse to the owner: the titular Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a French widow of a certain age.
Greta’s daughter lives in faraway Paris. Frances’ mother died a year ago. They fill a void in each other’s lives and become unlikely friends.
Director Jordan does a fine job of setting the table at a deliberate pace, providing clues here and there indicating something might be slightly … off about Greta. Even a seemingly sweet scene, in which Greta and Frances pay a visit to an animal shelter and Greta rescues a dog who’s about to be euthanized, takes on a slightly unsettling tone. (We’re always worried about dogs in horror movies, and in many cases that concern is tragically justified, isn’t it?)
Maika Monroe is a hoot as Erica, the obligatory wisecracking, free-spirited, no-filter roomie who tells Frances from the start there’s something weird and disturbing about Frances hanging around with this strange woman who’s some 40 years her senior. Eventually Frances comes around, especially after making a discovery of something beyond troubling in Greta’s apartment.
There’s something intriguing about the idea of a refined, sophisticated, 65-ish French woman as the classic movie stalker who bombards the target with calls and texts at all hours of the day and night; shows up and causes a disturbance at her target’s workplace, and has an almost supernatural ability to appear and disappear at will. Eventually, though, that promising premise turns ludicrous, especially when Huppert’s Greta suddenly seems to possess the strength and resilience of a Michael Myers.
And then there’s all that aforementioned dopey behavior from so many characters, from Frances’ employers at the restaurant where she works to the obligatory cops who say, “There’s nothing we can do,” when it fact there ARE some things they can do, to Frances’ father and her best friend, to, well, Frances herself, who acts as if she’s never seen a single movie ever about a crazed stalker and the victim who can’t get anyone to believe what’s really happening.
Despite the first-rate production values and the game performances from the cast, “Greta” can’t escape from the formulaic screenplay that dogs it at every turn.
It’s almost as if it’s being stalked by mediocrity itself.
Focus Features presents a film directed by Neil Jordan and written by Jordan and Ray Wright. Rated R (for some violence and disturbing images). Running time: 99 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.