Release Date(s)2018 (May 28, 2019)
Studio(s)Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Focus Features (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C
Stalker films are a staple of the thriller genre, but Greta breaks the template by casting Isabelle Huppert as the title character, a middle-aged woman who lives alone, seems harmless, but methodically sets traps for the unsuspecting.
Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz), new to New York City, spots an abandoned handbag on the subway. She looks for someone in authority to turn it over to but can locate no one, so when she finds a name and address in the bag, she decides to return it herself. The grateful owner, Greta Hideg (Huppert), invites Frances in for a cup of tea, and they strike up a conversation. Greta is a widow from France who has an estranged daughter. The two women bond and hang out for a while, taking walks and preparing meals together. Frances even helps Greta adopt a dog from an animal shelter to ease the older woman’s loneliness.
Eventually, Frances sees something in Greta’s apartment that unsettles her, tells her roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe), and follows her suggestion to break off all contact. But Greta bombards Frances with text messages and phone calls. Though put off by the onslaught of messages, for some reason Frances never thinks of blocking the calls. Having received no responses, Greta shows up at the restaurant where Frances works as a waitress, and creates a scene. Things only get creepier from there.
Greta is a variation on Fatal Attraction. It’s about a relationship turned sour by a realization that one party is unbalanced, maybe even crazy. Ms. Huppert gives the film a touch of class and we initially sympathize with her and enjoy seeing her make a friend of Frances, who fills a void in her life. But with each example of disturbing behavior, it becomes increasingly clear that Frances may be in real danger.
Director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) has fashioned the kind of thriller that mainstream audiences can embrace. It avoids excessive gore (with the exception of one graphic scene) and proceeds at a leisurely pace to let the viewer get to know Greta. Frances is not as well defined and fits the mold of helpless victim. She’s naive and trusting, and we learn that her own mother passed away. So it’s understandable that Frances sees in Greta a kind, caring motherly figure. Erica is a cynical, well-off, spoiled young woman whose father pays for her spacious loft apartment. But she’s a good friend to Frances, offers her common sense advice, and adds a few humorous touches to the movie. Stephen Rea has a small role as a private detective.
The film collapses structurally, in its final third, when we’re supposed to believe an amazing series of coincidences that lead to the climax. It’s as if Jordan and his co-writers ran out of creative energy and coasted in Act III. This is a shame. With three above-average performances, the star power of Isabelle Huppert, and a screenplay that draws us in and hooks us, it’s very disappointing to see a lazy payoff.
Rated R, Greta is a dark film about loneliness and the need for social connection. It’s also a cautionary tale about befriending appealing strangers and allowing them access to your life.
The Blu-ray release is presented in 1080p High Definition widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The picture is very sharp and well defined throughout even though the tone tends toward darker colors and deep shadows. Color balance is excellent, with the palette ranging from shadowy and dark in Greta’s apartment, only dimly lit by table lamps and a front window, to sunny and bright outdoors in the park. In the subway scenes that open the film, illumination is by fluorescent lights that give the images a slightly bluish tint. The brightness of the outdoor scenes, in which Greta and Frances walk the dog or just chat, suggest the brightening of Greta’s mood as her loneliness eases. Later, as she stalks Frances, Greta appears at night in the shadows or in unexpected places. Unusual compositions include an overhead shot of Frances’ father walking up a circular staircase, a close-up of Greta’s stocking feet tiptoeing menacingly, and a metronome that mysteriously starts ticking on its own. A nightmare sequence that takes place in an elevator is memorable. Mirrors reflect multiple images of Frances descending many levels below ground as the elevator shakes violently, sparks fly, and the walls close in to crush her.
The soundtrack is English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio. Dialogue is crisp, with ambient sound, such as the clatter of a subway train, street noise, and the banging on a wall, well balanced. Ms. Huppert’s French accent adds to the character’s mystery and is easy to understand. The score by Javier Navarrete is used sparingly to heighten suspense and establish mood and avoids the clichéd loud cues geared to make viewers jump. Optional English subtitles are available for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, the featurette Greta: Enemies and Friends, and a Digital Copy code on a paper insert within the package.
Deleted Scenes – Seven deleted scenes are included, all of which were rightfully cut for the final release.
2. Not Fair, Martin
3. The Whole World is Your Oyster
4. Frances Walks Home
5. Frances Looks for Answers
6. Please Don’t Ever Come Back Here
7. Where is Frances?
Greta: Enemies and Friends – In this brief featurette, director Neil Jordan and actors Chloe Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, and Maika Monroe discuss the female characters. They note that Greta is motivated by loneliness but goes to unacceptable and frightening extremes. Frances relates to Greta because she’s lost her own mother. The early scenes establish sympathy for Greta, which makes the characters’ change in temperament all the more dramatic. Jordan expresses his appreciation for working with three great actors and notes that, in Greta, the women dominate, and no man comes to the rescue.
– Dennis Seuling