Take a French acting legend, add a starlet fresh off of an appearance in a high-art horror remake, sprinkle with a dash of Audition and a liberal dollop of Fatal Attraction, and mix with a director who’s been making “elevated” genre films since before the term existed, and what do you get? Greta, The Crying Game director Neil Jordan’s latest entry into his long and frequently nutty body of work. This is a slight film, unlikely to be remembered in the long-term by anyone but completists who discover it during deep dives into its leads’ respective filmographies. But, oh, what a giddy ride awaits them.
Isabelle Huppert stars as the title character, a seemingly harmless widow living in Brooklyn who first meets Chloë Grace Moretz’s Frances after the latter finds a boxy green handbag on the subway one evening. Frances is a new arrival in NYC, her charmed life taking her straight from a cushy private college to the Soho loft of her friend Erica (Maika Monroe), whose parents bought her the place as a graduation present. An upstanding sort, Frances returns the bag to the address on the ID inside. She’s instantly infatuated with Greta, whose longing for her estranged daughter seems to match Frances’ own longing for her deceased mother.
And so the two begin a familial pantomime, filling the roles of mother and daughter in each others’ lives with home cooking and walks in the park with Greta’s new dog, which Frances helps pick out at a shelter. Then Frances opens the wrong door in Greta’s china cabinet while searching for candles to light one of those homemade dinners. Inside, she finds a half-dozen bags identical to the one she so thoughtfully brought back to her new faux-mom, each labeled with the name and number of the sap who returned it. Confused and betrayed, Frances cuts off all contact with Greta. Greta, to indulge in a bit of dramatic understatement, does not take the rejection well.
The demented stalker thriller—call it Fatal Mom-traction—that follows incorporates smartphone technology more organically than many films of its type, and flirts with a feminist statement in how frequently and bluntly it communicates the inadequacy of current anti-stalking laws. But mostly it’s a gleeful, giggle-inducing affair designed to make Huppert fans squeal with delight: Isabelle Huppert flips a table in a crowded restaurant! Isabelle Huppert dances around her apartment barefoot with a syringe in one hand! Isabelle Huppert is loaded into the back of an ambulance in a straitjacket, wriggling and screaming!
All the while, Huppert is clearly enjoying herself playing a sort of scowling French Terminator, appearing with improbable speed and silence wherever Moretz goes but not truly gobbling up the scenery until the film’s wild back third. And Jordan keeps the hysterical energy high all around her, punctuating scenes with Javier Navarrete’s screeching serial-killer score and upping the absurdity even further by piling dream sequences on top of dream sequences. If this all sounds messy, it is. Greta undeniably has some pacing issues, particularly in its first half, and the plot mechanics seem held together with the gum that Huppert spits into Moretz’s hair in yet another deranged scene. But for those who worship at the altar of camp, a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense is a feature, not a bug.