by Charles Nash

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 21, 2019


Good trash is hard to come by these days, but watching the legendary Isabelle Huppert sink her teeth into the "stalker from hell" archetype in "Greta" feels like getting struck by a bolt of lightning sent from the gods of camp.

Rooting conventional genre tropes in an aura of fairy-tale logic, director Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game," "Interview with the Vampire") has crafted a psychological thriller that primarily serves as a platform for one of the world's greatest actresses to fly off the rails and into a feverous state of demented bliss; the results are deliciously rotten. This is a very, very silly movie, but if you surrender yourself to Huppert's wickedness you're bound to fall under the film's delirious spell.

After finding a stray handbag on the subway a naÔve waitress, Frances (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), returns it to its owner: A lonely older widow named Greta (Huppert), who invites her in for a cup of tea as a token of her gratitude. Mourning the recent loss of her mother, Frances finds solace in what becomes a blossoming friendship with Greta, who herself claims to have lost touch with her only daughter, who is living in Paris. But Greta grows more emotionally destitute over time, to the point that Frances' best friend and roommate, Erica (a hilariously snarky Maika Monroe), starts to get concerned. Before long, Frances stumbles upon a shocking discovery in regards to her new maternal figure, sparking off a chain reaction of over-the-top set pieces in which Greta refuses to be ignored.

Anyone who's seen "Fatal Attraction," "Single White Female," or any other stalker-centric chiller will be able to predict how this plays out; "Greta" doesn't break any new ground in its surface-level examinations on grief and loneliness, nor is it the least bit convincing as any kind of cautionary tale. (As a colleague of mine stated, "I guess the message is that old people are weird?")

Yet, I couldn't care less. What makes "Greta" such a blast is how it revels in the absurdity of its genre trappings. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey's compositions capture Huppert as a malevolent specter even if she's hardly in the frame: A mirror reflects her high heels as she ascends a flight of stairs; her shadow looms closer to Moretz as it threatens to envelop her in darkness; as an out-of-focus silhouette, she dominates over her potential victim who's inevitably trapped within in the foreground of the frame. There's even an extended sequence that feels like Monroe's character from "It Follows" wandered into the text message set-piece of "Personal Shopper," as well as a cheeky nod to the infamous shot in "Halloween" (1978) in which Jamie Lee Curtis spots Michael Myers staring at her through a window at school that had me snickering.

That being said, nobody is in on the joke more than Huppert, relishing every moment of her character's descent into madness with the joy of a kid who's found one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. Whether she's staring daggers into Moretz's eyes as she slowly removes a pair of sunglasses, flipping over tables in the midst of an unhinged monologue, or spewing venomous lines such as, "This is a bed of lies," chances are, it'll be a GIF soon, and Gay Twitter is going to lose their fucking minds over this performance. By the time that she starts dancing to Franz Schubert following her most sadistic act yet, I nearly soiled myself from laughing.

What nearly derails most stalker-thrillers is the third act, in which there's an inevitable, violent conclusion that threatens to nullify the psychological complexity of the relationship between the two parties. Ironically, "Greta" feels as if it was made entirely for the climactic, batshit insanity, and the further it strays from its expository first act to unhinged Brian De Palma territory, the more it soars into guilty-pleasure heaven as Jordan completely disengages from reality and Huppert lets her freak flag fly. Through its own self-aware, darkly comic charms, "Greta" is a nasty little treat.