You’ve just moved to a big city and you don’t know many people. You see an expensive-looking handbag abandoned on a New York subway, just sitting there waiting for someone to claim it. Do you leave it there, reasoning that it’s someone else’s problem? Do you take it to lost property? Or do you go out of your way to do the seemingly kind thing and traipse across town to the given address, and personally hand the item back to its rightful owner… maybe even ignore the fact that she’s a little bit sinister, and join her for a cup of coffee? If you’re an option C) kind of person, this film may cause you to rethink your decision making process.
Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace-Moretz), a recent transplant to New York from Boston, decides to do the decent thing and return the bag herself. She is met by a delighted and terribly grateful Greta Hidag (Isabelle Huppert), a woman living alone in a Brooklyn apartment that is filled with sad memorabilia of a life been and gone. Frances is fascinated by Greta’s glamour, her French accent and her philosophical insights about love and loss. Frances’s own mother recently passed away, and she recognises in Greta a loneliness that she is all too familiar with.
The pair start to spend time together, much to the horror of her far more streetwise, born and bred New Yorker bestie Erica (Maika Monroe), who would rather die than spend her weekends hanging out with a strange, lonely woman. Frances, after ignoring her friend’s repeated warnings, realises for herself in a stomach flipping moment that behind Greta’s immaculate facade, there lies a far more sinister truth.
Huppert is the driving force of the film. She is brilliant as Greta, especially once the layer of togetherness begins to fall away, and we see an unhinged side beginning to bubble just below the surface. Grace-Moretz on the other hand is given much less to work with, mostly just there to appear terrified and to enable Huppert to shine (which wouldn’t matter so much if we didn’t know what she was capable of). Maika Monroe is perfection as the hard-headed New Yorker best friend, who has her head screwed on so much more than her pal that it makes us wonder why they are friends in the first place. She’s a says-it-how-it-is kind of girl, and good God does Frances need some guidance.
Greta is fun, entertaining, at times scary, and at times a bit silly, but you’re guaranteed to have a good time if you are willing to do so. The script can err on the side of sickly (Grace-Moretz at one point states, ‘my friends say I’m like chewing gum, I tend to stick around’), but if you are willing to forgive these minor details, you’re in for a fun ride, even the occasional, genuine scare. The only real error the film makes is in an unnecessarily nasty canine side story… inexcusable.
One piece of advice for potential viewers of this film is to go in with as little prior knowledge as possible. The trailer gives away far too much and the fun is maximised by not knowing what to expect. It’s the perfect film to see with your friends, ones you can grab and huddle together in it’s scarier moments, but also laugh when it teeters into more absurd territory. The movie starts off brilliantly, with an underlying sense of unease lurking beneath the unlikely budding friendship.
Cracks in Greta’s persona chillingly start to appear, but unfortunately the second half descends into some classic trappings that these thrillers so easily can, with countless plot holes and suddenly, inexplicably superhuman characters. Go in with an open mind, and you’ll at least have some fun.
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