I get the feeling with Neil Jordan’s “Greta” that the writers came up with the ending first, were so stoked on themselves and didn’t bother to put any thought into the rest of the movie. To be fair, the ending is a beauty, and the movie is worth watching purely for that. This type of horror has been well exercised in Hollywood; a seemingly sweet and benign character turns out to be psychotic and holds the protagonist captive. In this instance, the sweet psychopath is middle aged French lady Greta (Isabelle Huppert), who is somewhat scary as the film progresses but isn’t likeable enough to begin with for this to pack much of a punch. Also she looks and sounds just like Helen Mirren and that was distracting too. The victim is wide eyed Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) who has lost her mother and takes pity on the lonely Greta when she returns her lost purse and they strike up a friendship. Admittedly, the script is schmultzy and annoying, but Moretz in my mind isn’t a strong actress so that certainly didn’t help either.
“Greta” instantly reminded of “Misery” starring Cathy Bates, which scared the shit out of me. Throughout the movie kept thinking about how much Misery worked, and how much this one didn’t. Ultimately, I think that the reason Misery is effective was that it was contained within the one little house, and because of that the rules of normal society didn’t apply. That’s why Misery is so terrifying, because it could actually and legitimately happen. The captive couldn’t call the police because his legs are broken and his captive has cut the phone line and nobody in the outside world knows where he is. So he has to come up with a way to outsmart his captor, and you’re rooting for him all the way. The problem with “Greta” is that the vast majority of the film takes place in the real world, with all the tools and services available to stop this sort of thing from happening.
By the time that Greta has actually arrived at the restaurant where Frances works and throws over a table in a crazed rant and the police still do nothing to help her, the movie loses any credibility or plausibility because the audience could no longer possibly picture this ever happening. There are a couple of moments where tension is handled well, but these are hidden by how ultimately drab, dull and unimaginative the rest of the movie is. Until the last 5 minutes, when I was completely blindsided by a genuinely good twist. I had resigned myself to the film being unoriginal, and it was a real thrill when it surprised me the way it did. That’s why I’m giving the movie two stars, purely for the ending. Is that enough to redeem the rest of the movie? Probably not, but they could have just let it play out as the audience would have expected, and they didn’t.
Good on them for that at least.
By Jock Lehman