You would think people would know not to pick up bags off the subway by now.
“Greta,” Neil Jordan’s most recent thriller, is a story of a girl that, inexplicably, has not learned that lesson.
The film begins with a simple purse, left on the subway. Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), a waitress and recent college graduate with a mildly tragic backstory, swoops in to do her good deed of the day. She rummages through the bag to find some identification, and sets out on a mission to return it, despite her roommate’s warnings.
She meets up with the owner, a lonely French woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Her home is filled with warm, old-world elegance and suspicious thumping noises. The pair bonds over coffee and eventually exchange numbers. Greta misses her daughter. Frances just lost her mom. It’s a heartwarming tale.
Except Greta is a proper lunatic.
The stalking begins and elevates from 10 missed calls to drugging and kidnapping, eventually placing the film firmly in the psychological thriller drama. The only problem? It’s not psychological or thrilling enough to really pack a punch.
Each plot point happens because it has to, not because it naturally would.
What makes a thriller truly immersive is the realism. If you can see the situation happening in the real world and the characters act like people actually would, it’s scarier. It hits harder because you can connect — you’re with the characters in their decisions, and sometimes you even agree with them.
In “Greta," it feels like Moretz is just making a stream of illogical plot-advancing decisions, excused by her single character trait — kindness.
Along with the storyline, the writing itself seems sloppy. One particular quote turned motif had me stifling laughter in the theatre.
“I’m like chewing gum. I tend to stick around.”
Hearing Frances say that with a completely serious face made me giggle, but it was repeated a solid four more times. Was writer Ray Wright really so moved by a quote on a Forever 21 t-shirt that he had to make it a theme?
Thankfully, toward the end the film began to gain a bit of momentum. It was obvious that Wright and Jordan are much better with the actual thriller component after the derivative exposition, and despite Moretz’s typical dead-behind-the-eyes look she pulled off panic rather convincingly.
In the framework of such a contrived story, Isabelle Huppert also managed to find her spotlight. Her portrayal of Greta is delightfully mad, and the tiny details like her tiptoed dance around a dead body really build what could have become a flat character.
Unfortunately, even good acting couldn’t totally save the film. Coupled with a manufactured plot and underdeveloped writing, “Greta” was a solid “OK.”