BY ALL ACCOUNTS, French actor Isabelle Huppert is magnificent. She has class and presence, she’s sexy and she’s not predictable. She’s beautiful in a way that evades Hollywood’s shallow glamour, but not even Huppert herself can save Greta, a film that may make you pause to consider if director Neil Jordan, he of Mona Lisa (1986) and The Crying Game (1992) fame, has lost his touch entirely.
Comparisons with Huppert and an actress such as Helen Mirren are instructive if you consider Mirren’s performance in Peter Greenaway’s deeply disturbing The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1986), as a 44 year old, in which did not shy from taking taboos all the way. Huppert was 48 when she gave life to the central character in The Piano Teacher (2001) with all its sexual psychoses and imperatives intact. But here, as the eponymous Greta, she has pizzazz and pixie-like charm, she wields her piano and metronome with murderous intent, but her presence in this work feels as cheap as Meryl Streep’s in the most recent iteration of Mamma Mia!
As you will notice from the film’s trailer, far too much information is offered in this boiler plate thriller, where an elegant old psychopath goes around picking up young women using the device of an unattended handbag on a train. And a recently bereaved nice young girl by the name of Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) falls hook, line and sinker into the trap, armed with just a pout and a repertoire of but four or five facial expressions.
And laden and weighed down with no-brainer predictability, the yarn unravels. Amid a rich rottenness of red herrings, there are moments replete with such utter silliness that you can only really laugh. Uproariously. There’s a business with a finger in an ashtray and a stump in a glove, some nimble tip toeing done by a gun wielding madwoman in stockings and a cell-phone wielding stalking sequence which almost has the power to be creepy, but is not pushed far enough.
This film lacks even one haunting moment that you could take home with you to fuel your nightmares. But in taking the line of every and any thriller since the beginning of the genre, it gives you to understand that everything will turn out okay; the baddies will get their comeuppance and the innocent (or at least most of them) will be saved. It’s 1 hour and 38 minutes of your life that you won’t get back, and you won’t even have an increased pulse rate to show for it.
- Greta is directed by Neil Jordan and features a cast headed by Zawe Ashton, Elisa Berkeley, Thaddeus Daniels, Raven Dauda, Navi Dhanoa, Rosa Escoda, Colm Feore, Jeff Hiller, Isabelle Huppert, Arthur Lee, Maika Monroe, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nagisa Morimoto, Jane Perry, Jessica Preddy, Stephen Rea, Parker Sawyers and Brandon Lee Sears. It is written by Neil Jordan and Ray Wright, based on a story by Ray Wright. Produced by Lawrence Bender, James Flynn, Sidney Kimmel, John Penotti and Karen Richards, it features creative input by Javier Navarrete (music), Seamus McGarvey (cinematography), Nick Emerson (editing), Stephanie Gorin and Jina Jay (casting), Anna Rackard (production design) and John Neligan (set). Release date, Ster Kinekor, Cinema Nouveau: July 5 2019.