It’s a shock to realize that Neil Jordan — the darkly soulful Irishman whose romanticism in Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, and the more recent Ondine and Byzantium had mystical, fairy-tale undercurrents — has come back with a rote psycho-horror flick like Greta, a movie with zero subtext and twists you can see limping toward you like the zombie tropes they are. That said, he’s no vulgarian. The film is intense and features a performance by Chloë Grace Moretz that’s more committed than this swill deserves.
Moretz plays Frances, who finds a purse on a New York subway and dutifully returns it to its owner, the title fruitcake (Isabelle Huppert). If you’ve seen Huppert in The Piano Teacher, the sight of Greta sitting down at the instrument will give you flashback willies. Frances — who has just lost her beloved mom — falls into an easy mother-daughter relationship with the lonely widow that turns garishly nuts so quickly you wonder how Greta will go past the one-hour mark. But it turns out you can fit a lot of stalking, kidnapping, and torture into 98 minutes.
The actresses are a physical mismatch, Moretz with her features in constant motion and Huppert with her masklike smugness. They click, though. If Huppert had done a Joan Crawford number, the film would have been instant camp, so she shrewdly lets Moretz emote for two. As Frances’s rich-girl roommate, Maika Monroe, from It Follows, acts in a different, goofy key, which also works. Movies like Greta need all the weird incongruities they can get. On the other hand, a droopy mutt and a droopy detective (a droopy Stephen Rea) might as well have signs around their necks reading DEAD MEAT.
*This article appears in the February 18, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!