Greta is a dark, psychological thriller that’s all payoff with no setup. It’s suspense without the time taken to correctly build up the character’s relationships. This being the case, there’s virtually no chance to create a rapport with you, the audience. Without the much-needed connection to each other, it’s difficult for you to release and let yourself go and sink into the story.
We meet the main characters and are thrown into the heart of the storyline before our first kernel of popcorn. We’re then expected to believe that what feels like immediately after meeting, these people have created a bond that would have them care for and trust one another to the degree that they have no need to question motives. No! It just doesn’t happen that way and Neil Jordan should have known that. Had the proper structure been designed, this would have gone far beyond expectations. As it’s presented, it sadly disappoints.
Through conversations with her roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe), we learn that Frances’ (Chloe Grace Moretz) mother has passed away. This is the thin argument as to how the screenwriters might be able to explain Frances embracing Greta (Isabelle Huppert) so quickly. However, knowing the character the short time you do, you realize she’s too smart and independent to want or need anything from anyone and we’re back to square one where it doesn’t work. Frances is kind-hearted and when she notices a purse had been left on the train, she physically takes it to the address inside and to the rightful owner. When you meet Greta, you can believe she’s a vicious snake that would crawl in any hole your heart leaves unguarded. This part, Jordan got right! Huppert is stellar in her characterization of a woman looking for vulnerable people the city is ready to eat alive. She starts to nibble right away. As they get to know one another, Frances makes one mistake. She tells Greta that she’s like chewing gum, ‘I tend to stick around.’ That’s all Greta needed to hear. Not long after, Frances is at Greta’s house for dinner. While Frances is searching for candles, she discovers more purses with different identifications that Greta has warehoused in a cabinet. She leaves the house and Greta’s life behind. Or so she thinks. Again… happens too quickly.
Up to this point, the movie should have been building you up. Unfortunately, the tale has nowhere to go but down from here. Everything’s out in the open! There isn’t enough time for Frances to be horrified at the thought of what her friend has done, terrified at the discovery, or just plain upset about now having to boot this friend from her life, because, in the natural order of things, none of this would have happened. I realize we can ‘sacrifice realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment’ and all that but for what they’re asking, and what happens beyond this point, Jordan could have had a real gem here. So, I must be honest with you, my reader.
What does happen next, as Greta attempts to stay in her life, is terrifying! She won’t leave Frances alone and won’t let her go. She goes to great lengths to try and win her back by explaining she’s just lonely. The creep factor is elevated because Greta doesn’t mind being seen doing her stalking. When her prey turns around, the Huntress is right behind her. The regrettable thing about this part being so delicious is that by the time this comes into play, you’re already shaking your head and not buying what you’re being sold.
I wish ‘Greta’ had been better because these actresses gave it everything they had and still couldn’t make it work. They were strong and believable but it’s not easy to make an anemic script, with ghastly dialogue, look flush. Kudos to them on the attempt.