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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

A True New York Fairytale

Greta is a true New York fairytale with its sinister storyline of the innocent girl being fooled by the evil witch. As far as intentions are concerned, Neil Jordan’s Greta is a film well painted. Unfortunately, the paint doesn’t dry in time for the film to fully become what it could have been.

Not long after the death of her mother, Frances Mccullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) moves to Manhattan with her wealthy friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe) to start over. The two settle into the extravagant Tribeca apartment Erica received as a graduation gift and Frances starts waitressing at a luxury restaurant. While coming home from work on the subway, Frances finds a handbag belonging to Greta Hideg, (Isabelle Huppert) a lonely piano teacher. Upon returning the bag to it’s address, Frances and Greta get to know each other and soon become very close friends. Despite Erica’s warnings that she doesn’t even know Greta, the naive Frances continues the friendship.

Their friendship comes to a screeching halt when Frances discovers a bunch of handbags in Greta’s apartment identical to the one she brought back. Each bag has the names and addresses of people Greta had lured into her life. As a result, Frances cuts all ties with her. Sadly for Frances, it’s already too late. Greta has become captivated by Frances’s good nature and refuses to stay away. She starts blowing up her phone, standing for hours outside her place of work and even sends photos of Erica indicating threats. Frances and Erica go to the police but as always with stalker movies, this accomplishes nothing. Greta’s inability to accept rejection continues to escalate as the film goes on and secrets regarding her past slowly reveal themselves.

All of the film’s problems come from its script. There’s some good to it but there’s also a lot of nonsense that just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, Greta’s three leading ladies give performances strong enough to climb out of the nonsense and keep the audience's attention solely on them. Despite appearing in more than 120 films, Isabelle Huppert is not a very recognizable actress in America. Greta gives Isabelle Huppert an American platform big enough to at least give audiences an opportunity to identify her as an actress they will want to see more of in the future.

Her performance as Greta is the film’s biggest performance and the most memorable. She takes charge of every scene and conducts it with a gigantic amount of energy and a low amount of sanity. Someone like Greta has no limits and Huppert portrays her lack of hesitation with a very disturbing quality but also with a good amount of wit and humor.

Chloe Grace Moretz’s performance as Frances left me feeling conflicted as she makes a lot of dumb choices. Yet, after getting to know her as a character, I can sort of understand where she’s coming from. During the credits, I overheard someone say, “I like Chloe Grace Moretz but I don’t know where the hell her character’s brain was here”. I processed this statement for awhile and I concluded that it’s not that Frances doesn’t think. It’s that she doesn't think in a modern fashion. Frances herself just isn’t a modern woman. She doesn’t really belong to this era and it’s that naive peacefulness about her that ends up getting her into trouble. “This city is going to eat you alive”, Erica tells her at one point. Evil has a repeatable tradition of praying on the vulnerable and Frances comes from a deep corner of vulnerability.

The loss Moretz injects into her performance is so real. She’s not quiet about it and she’s not all over the place. She’s somewhere in the middle where the reality of her pain has finally punched her in the stomach and she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. She tries to explain herself to Erica in one scene when she starts crying at a movie theater as that was something she and her mother always did together.

That scene really struck me because of the way her tears slowly flow down her face from behind her 3D glasses. It is so shocking because you don’t expect a film like Greta to touch you in certain places but it does. Some people really are as naive as Frances and many of them are young people who can be easily manipulated by people like Greta.

Maika Monroe’s Erica is a very entertaining character as she has no filter and she’ll give audiences laughs when they least expect them. She and Frances could not be more different from one another but the bond they have will make you feel extremely warm as they truly interact more like sisters. The extent of Frances’s vulnerability is something Erica is very much aware of and Greta’s antics disrupt her friends grief. She instantly becomes Frances’s protector but as is also the case with stalker film’s, protectors can’t save you. Not every protector is like Erica. She’s stronger than her rich girl personality lets on and as the film keeps moving forward, so does her patience with Greta. Monroe and Moretz are extremely close in real life and their chemistry is extremely visible.

Greta also has a very admirable score but it’s soundtrack overtakes it completely as most of Greta’s music really goes with the story and that’s a credit to Neil Jordan’s vision. The cinematography is also very beautiful and the shots of the interiors are very important to the events that they take place in.

Overall, I’d say the flaws of Greta will not be unspoken by any audience but entertainment is what a film like Greta was made for and in that department, it does it’s job well.

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