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Thursday, March 14, 2019 12:04 am

Grim Greta a deliciously dark comic thriller

If your tastes run towards Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Neil Jordan’s Greta is likely to be your cup of tea. This nasty little dark comedy effectively taps into the paranoia of the abduction thriller, doing so with a distinct twinkle of the eye and tongue planted firmly in cheek.  Much of this is due to Isabelle Hubbert’s performance in the title role, a deft high-wire act, a performance that balances a serious take on psychosis with a tinge of comic lunacy, which winds up being the film’s central delight.

Chloe Grace Moretz is along for the ride as Frances, a vulnerable college student who's still coming to terms with the death of her mother a year prior.  While riding the subway one day, she spies a designer handbag someone's left behind.  Conveniently naïve and good Samaritan that she is, she returns the purse to its rightful owner, Greta, a lonely French ex-pat who invites her in for coffee. Conversation ensues, Frances' heartstrings are tugged thanks to Greta's tale of woe (she's a widow and her daughter is abroad) and a tenuous friendship is brokered.  Instead of dating and hanging out in trendy bars with her roommate Erica (Maika Monroe), Frances spends her Saturday nights having dinner with her surrogate mother…until she makes a discovery revealing her new friend's true intentions, which sends the young woman scurrying into the night.

What ensues is a cat-and-mouse tale of stalking that’s quite effective in getting under not only Frances and Erica’s skins but the viewer’s as well. Initially, Greta’s ability to be everywhere our young heroine is, is logical and taps into our frustration with the limitations of the law where cases such as this are concerned.  To be sure, the script by Ray Wright and Jordan begins to take some liberties during the film’s second act and trots out a double dream sequence that’s needlessly misleading and insulting. 

Still, you’re willing to look past these flaws, thanks in large part to Hubbert.  She attacks this role with a relish that will have you giggling at how audacious her character’s actions become and how fully she embraces it.  When Greta shows up at the high-tone restaurant where Frances works and causes a scene for the ages, the actress pulls out all the stops, making the scene not simply horrific but deliciously absurd as well.  Though given less to do, Moretz is effective as well as the vulnerable young woman who finds her sense of worth a bit too late in the game for it to do her any good.

As with M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016 Split, viewers are required to deal with the frustration that occurs when Frances does not afford herself of the various avenues of escape that are available to her during every step of her ordeal. Unfortunately, filmmakers who take on these genre exercises tend to get lazy where plot points such as these are concerned.  Be that as it may, if you can excuse these shortcomings, you’re likely to have a great deal of fun with Greta, an exercise that gets by due to the styling of a veteran director and the expertise of two strong actresses. Watching them all go through their paces is delightful enough.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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