Over the years Isabelle Huppert has proven herself to be an incredibly versatile actress. With over one hundred movies to her credit the 65-year-old Huppert has done a little bit of everything. She is certainly no stranger to playing unhinged and unsettling characters. Look no further than her role in Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher” – still one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever watched.
Huppert taps back into that outright derangement with her new film “Greta”. It’s not as nuanced as the role she played in “The Piano Teacher”. This is a much more straightforward psychological thriller and her madness comes into focus pretty early on.
Chloë Grace Moretz plays Frances, a young woman who has recently moved to New York from Boston following the death of her mother. She shares an apartment with her best friend Erica (Maika Monroe) and waits tables at an upscale Manhattan restaurant. Her father (Colm Feore) has moved on with his life which has caused tension between the two. Frances hopes her new start will help her cope with the loss of her mom.
But then she finds a purse left behind on the subway. Turns out it belongs to a lonely piano teacher (ironic) named Greta (Huppert). A kind-hearted Frances finds an address and takes the purse to a surprised and relieved Greta. The two end up hitting it off, each seemingly filling a void in both of their lives. But when Frances makes an alarming discovery she cuts ties which pushes the obsessive Greta over the edge.
Moretz does a good enough job but a large chunk of the script keeps her handcuffed. Several of Frances’ scenes with Erica and all of them with her father come across as shallow and they leave out some potentially good character development. It’s as if director and co-writer Neil Jordan wasn’t interested in letting Moretz dig further into her character’s background. The overwhelming focus is on Frances and Greta which admittedly is the strength of the movie.
It is Huppert who makes it all work mainly because she is so convincing. Her turn from uncomfortably obsessive to full-blown maniacal is utterly seamless. She delivers such a genuinely unsettling character who melds right into the New York City canvass due to her unassuming appearance and mild-mannered demeanor. Even when Greta comes unglued Huppert maintains an element of that creepy gentle facade. It’s a really good performance.
Almost inevitably things get pretty crazy in the film’s final act which I feel works pretty well. The problem is there are some gaping holes in logic that are simply too hard to overlook. Still “Greta” manages to deliver what most fans of the psychological thriller genre are looking for. I was still left thinking it could have better. At the same time I admit to being entertained by its madness.
VERDICT – 3 STARS