Those looking for subtle ruminations on obsessions and neuroses may be disappointed by Neil Jordan's genre thriller Greta, which at minimum offers campy, B-movie trappings for genre fans. Largely superficial and often implausible, the film nonetheless entertains thanks to the cat-and-mouse dance of its two stars, Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz. The latter plays young New York City waitress Frances McCullen, who finds a handbag on the subway and returns it to French widow Greta Hideg (Ruppert), who is eager for her company. The pair begins spending time with one another, but Frances soon discovers Greta is more than a little bit obsessed with her. This material is trashy, especially for talents like Ruppert and Jordan, but that is kind of the point. I wish Jordan, in his first film in nearly seven years, had kept the tight, psychological twirlings of the first act in place, but the late-game, Looney Tunes showdown is like a train wreck you cannot stop watching.
If only Frances listened to friend and flatmate Erica (Maika Monroe), when she tells her the city is going to "eat [her] alive." Erica finds the handbag, looks inside for a license and visits Greta the next morning to return it. Greta invites her in for coffee, and a couple of days later Frances agrees to help Greta pick out a dog at the pound. The unusual friendship is going well until Erica opens the wrong cabinet at a dinner party and discovers Greta has numerous green handbags with identical contents and the names of other young women on the outside. She hastily leaves and cuts ties with Greta, who begins showing up at Frances's apartment and workplace with increasing frequency and menace. The police are unhelpful, and offer that Frances can file for a restraining order in a process that can take months, and she risks losing her job at a trendy bistro when Greta makes a scene inside.
The opening act of Greta is tighter and more believable than later scenes. Frances is drawn to Greta, who talks of her late husband and the daughter she says has moved to Paris, because Frances lost her own mother to cancer a year prior. Greta claims to teach piano (a nod to her role in The Piano Teacher) and exudes French elegance and grace. But when Frances cuts ties, Greta goes nuts, stalking Erica in a downtown club and tossing chewing gum at Frances in her apartment hallway. I wanted Greta to be tighter, more dramatically satisfying, but even as it devolved into camp I remained entertained. Jordan, of The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire fame, is no stranger to pageantry and sweeping visuals, and Greta is well shot with decent pacing. Had it not teetered on the line between respectable and absurd and simply picked a side, the narrative might have made more impact.
Ruppert is fantastic here, and I would love to see her as the bad guy in a Mission: Impossible or Bond movie next. Moretz holds her own but looks a bit lost next to her superior co-star. Plot contrivances abound in Greta: the useless police, the dead mother and absentee father, and Frances behaving in a way that is sure to get her murdered. None of these are fatal, but the cast works double time to make this movie better than it ought to be. Greta never really explains the root of its antagonist's woes, nor does it explain how she moves at superhuman speed in downtown New York City transport hubs. Director Jordan's latest is campy and messy, but I was almost wholly entertained.
The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is digitally sourced, and looks expectedly clear and crisp throughout. Fine-object detail, texture and landscapes are all equally impressive; colors are nicely saturated, skin tones accurate, and black levels reasonably inky. Digital noise and motion blur is minimal, and this is overall a nice presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers nice thriller ambience amid the subway stations and crowded streets of New York City. Knocking and banging at Greta's house rumbles the subwoofer, and effects effectively pan the sound field. Dialogue is generally clear, though I noticed a bit of level discrepancy and crowding during an early conversation between Greta and Frances. The vibrant score is layered appropriately and given nice weight. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release includes the Blu-ray and an HD digital copy. The disc is stashed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include Deleted Scenes (5:45 total/HD) and Greta: Enemies and Friends (3:33/HD), an extremely short EPK.
Director Neil Jordan's latest is more b-movie camp than legitimate thriller, but the trashy thrills are buoyed by an unhinged performance from Isabelle Ruppert. Rent It.