Trailers are too long these days. It’s not a preview anymore, more like a mini-movie revealing nearly every plot twist. The upcoming Neil Jordan thriller Greta is no different. But with its trailer, you’re filled with enough of a feeling of dread in your throat that you want to see more. Greta shows the bone-chilling dynamic of the titular character, an obsessive and possibly murderous older woman played by uber-intense French actress Isabelle Huppert, and Chloë Grace Moretz‘s Frances, a fresh faced young woman new to the Big Apple. The reviews of this May-December friendship gone very sour are out today, and they are both tepid and flattering of Huppert.
If you’ve ever seen Huppert in one of her other stomach churning roles, you know that the beautiful actress can set a scene with just a look. In the 2001 French mind-fuck The Piano Teacher, Huppert plays a lonely, horny, and horrifying instructor. Oddly enough, in Greta, she’s also a lonely, horrifying piano teacher. (This has an Irish director, so the horny is absent). Greta leaves a purse on a train and Frances finds it, returns it to her home, and they spark an intense mother-daughter connection that soon turns to a bloody obsession. Jordan also directed Interview With the Vampire and The Crying Game, so expect some camp and surprises stirred into this stalker story for good measure.
As its climate slowly changes, the world is increasingly turning to horror flicks for an escape. Viewers are looking for an almost “well, at least it’s not that bad!” experience. Greta, in many ways, mirrors our time: It’s uneven, horrifying, yet somehow funny.
If you don’t want to get lost in a sea of reviews, here’s a breakdown: It’s uneven and over-the-top, but watch it for Huppert’s performance.
Refinery29’s Anne Cohen writes that “The problem with Greta is that it both does too much and not enough.” The critic notes scenes that could have turned “a subpar thriller into quirky camp classic” but the director drops the ball.
In his review, A.O. Scott of The New York Times seems to want to like it. But ultimately, he writes that Greta is “a mixed bag, a skillfully executed psychological thriller with not quite enough in the way of psychology or thrills to be as disturbing or diverting as it should be. And maybe not enough Isabelle Huppert, either, though she is the major and almost sufficient reason to bother with the film in the first place.”
Rolling Stone’s review by Peter Travers agrees that Huppert’s performance is key to the movie’s watchability while also going a little further with flattery. He points out that, “Yeah, you’ve seen it all before. But Huppert pulls out all the funny-scary stops playing cat to Moretz’s mouse. And when the worm turns, fasten your seatbelts. Jordan squeezes the plot for every ounce of campy, disreputable fun. It could have been so much more. But with these two actresses going at it, who’s complaining?”
For the talent alone, if not for the pacing, it seems like Greta is worth shelling out $24 to see in the theater. Just expect to be haunted by Huppert when you get home. Her creepiness goes against nature, and that’s why she is the most effective weapon in a horror director’s arsenal.