No, Focus Features’ new movie, “Greta,” isn’t a biopic on the legendary, elusive movie star Greta Garbo. Rather, it’s one of the very few Hollywood movies French cinema royalty Isabelle Huppert has crossed overseas to participate in. Co-starring Chloe Grace Moretz, the horror-thriller is so close, yet so far, from being a success.
Huppert is by far one of the most talented and intriguing actresses to come out of France, and yet when she expands her repertoire to the States once every decade, it’s usually to act in mediocre films like “Heaven’s Gate” (1981), “I Heart Huckabees” (2004), “Dead Man Down” (2013), and most recently, “Greta.”
In downtown Manhattan, Frances (Moretz) is living with Erica (Maika Monroe), her childhood best friend, after her mother suddenly passes away. While riding on the subway after work, she spots a lost black handbag that belongs to an older woman named Greta Hideg (Huppert). After returning Greta’s belongings, Frances finds that the woman is lonely, thanks to both her husband’s death and her daughter moving out of the country. Rather quickly, the two become a surrogate mother-daughter pairing that Erica thinks is a little too strange for comfort. Frances doesn’t see the big deal – not until she finds something alarming in Greta’s house, anyway.
“Greta” is directed by Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan, who first broke through with testosterone heavy features like “Mona Lisa” (1986), “The Crying Game” (1992), and “Interview with the Vampire” (1994). Both in his current role and “Byzantium” (2012), Jordan proves that he has a genuine interest in creating projects centered around women. Even more interesting here, though, is that there are only two male characters in “Greta,” and neither of them are there for a love subplot.
But while Jordan’s characters are interesting, the recent scripts have revealed a weak spot with the director. Throughout “Greta,” we receive an almost amateur execution of tropes and exposition, the kind that you would see in a student film.
It’s a shame, because Jordan is a quality director, Huppert is great in everything, and Moretz and Monroe have decent enough followings for this movie to do better. Heck, even the soundtrack’s mix of classical music and whimsy indie songs is unique and interesting. Still, it’s not enough to carry the film, and the use of things like fake-out dream sequences, obvious exposition, and predictable clichés leave a lot to be desired.