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The movie Greta is an Irish-American thriller directed by Neil Jordan and was first introduced at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018. The film tells a story of a young lonely waitress, Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), who rents an apartment with her friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe). One day, the young girl finds a strange handbag in a subway, with a pinned address, which leads her to a mysterious widow named Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Although the widow seems to be a gentle and attentive woman, surrounding France with love and care, she has her skeletons in the closet, which Frances finds out soon. This paper aims at reviewing the movie Greta and analyzing the director’s principal claim, the moral of the movie, and the techniques which the director used to bring his ideas to the audience.
Greta is not only intended for thriller-lovers but also for those who are interested in sophisticated family relationships and who would like to see the emotional scenes of personal struggles, affected by tragic family events. The lonely widow Greta whose daughter committed suicide is trying to find young girls who could replace her actual child. After a particular chain of events, Francis finds out that the woman has dozens of similar handbags for other young girls and then realizes that the widow trapped her. However, it becomes incredibly hard for Francis to get rid of Greta because the widow starts stalking her daily. Unfortunately, the police ignore Francis’s requests for help, and Frances and Erica have nothing left but to try to get rid of the irritating widow on their own. However, the friends worsen the situation tremendously, which results in Francis’s kidnapping, and Erica needs to put enormous effort to release her friend.
The main goal of the director was to display Greta’s superficial sincerity with an inner wish to manipulate the naivety and credulity of the “good girl.” By skillfully using her natural ability to feign, Greta effortlessly demonstrates to Frances what real friendship and bond look like, and naive Frances gets caught in this lie. The director tries to portray the inability of Frances to analyze the environment around her and the dreadful consequences, which happen because of the lack of this useful skill. The young girl feels much more comfortable playing an imaginary part of a daughter for the one who keeps controlling her mind, without realization. Furthermore, by filming the “sincere” emotions of Greta when she plays her role and by showing simple situations such as choosing a dog or cooking together, the director shows the real power of a human lie.
It is widely known that any range of unique techniques used by the director in his or her movies is inevitably connected with the director’s previous works and personal style. According to Travers, “Jordan is known for the tricks he hides up his sleeve, notably the sexual peekaboo of The Crying Game, which earned him an Oscar nomination as best director and the trophy itself for his screenplay” (Travers). Moreover, the director appears to be an intellectual whose work is so logically structured and predictable that the audience can enjoy their own ability to read between the lines. On the other hand, the director inserts so many clichés in the movie that it becomes not just a horror-thriller movie, which it is, but a “silly thriller” (Lee).
By showing the audience the points outlined above, the director warns them against the effect of the shallow fairytale, which individuals create for themselves, and then he suddenly destroys it by displaying an actual truth. Although at the end of the movie, Jordan emphasizes that both friends “won” and defeated Greta, they failed at winning the “war” against the lie, produced by the widow. According to Hans, “… Jordan takes his cues from the stalker thrillers of the 1980s and early 1990s. Brian De Palma seems like a particular point of reference, with Jordan borrowing his canted angles and vertiginous strings in order to emphasize the woozy loss of balance in Frances’s judgment” (Hans). In contrast to the “traditional” portrayal of stalking concept and a “typical” picture of mentally unstable people, Jordan uses various signs and hints instead of direct outlines and features.
Due to the usage of rather direct and comprehensible symbols, the director proves his central arguments about the lie as a natural phenomenon in societies and cultures. Moreover, not only the ambiguous references contribute to the picture but also the cast’s performance, especially the one of Huppert. It is possible to note that “… Huppert compounds the fright with elegant comedy, so that while the movie is impossible to take seriously, it’s also hard to resist, like an unattended bag on the subway that’s just begging you to look inside” (A.O. Scott). Therefore, with the combination of skillful grotesque techniques and the cast’s achievement, the movie appears to be incredibly convincing and entertaining at the same time.
Although the movie received a lot of positive reviews, its ending turned out to be extremely weak, unsubstantial, and obscure, contradicting the movie’s nature. A sophisticated and unconventional character like Greta was turned into a typical “cartoon-styled” Evil which was easily defeated by two “good” characters. Immature Francis was not experienced enough to get to the core of Greta’s real intentions, and therefore, her victory looks unbelievable. However, despite the movie’s weak and surprisingly predictable ending, it remains open, and it is impossible to foresee further development of the characters’ stories. According to Pound, “Greta certainly won’t go down as one of Jordan’s best movies…But like a true midnight movie (or maybe a midnight-ish movie), it’s messy, bloody fun if you let it in” (Pound).
Taking everything into account, Greta happens to be an entertaining and creepy movie that should not be treated very seriously, regardless of its meaningful idea. Some of the movie scenes may seem sometimes illogical due to the prevalence of clichés, such as the naivety of the main character and unnaturally smooth plot twists. Nevertheless, the combination of the director’s grotesque approach and clear signs, which are explicit for the audience, confirm his point about the power of human lie and its ability to entrap individuals.
Lee, Benjamin. “Greta Review – Isabelle Huppert Torments Chloë Grace Moretz in Dim-Witted Thriller.” The Guardian. 2018, Web.
Hans, Simran. “Greta Review – Effective B-Movie Madness.” The Guardian. 2019, Web.
Travers, Peter. “‘Greta’ Review: Isabelle Huppert Steals This Stalker Thriller.” RollingStone. 2019, Web.
Scott, A.O. “‘Greta’ Review: Isabelle Huppert as Sweet Surrogate Mom Turned Psycho Stalker.” The New York Times. 2019, Web.
Pond, Steve. “‘Greta’ Film Review: Neil Jordan’s Psycho Stalker Flick Is Bloody Good Fun” The Wrap. 2019, Web.