Grande Dame Guignol lives on! Maybe not with the same panache as the films from the ‘60s, or the same level of insanity, but a film like Greta is worth it for the camp spectacle alone. Here it is provided to us by an extremely game Isabelle Huppert, playing a spidery widow who leaves expensive-looking purses lying around on subways to attract Good Samaritans to her door. Chloë Grace Moretz plays one such Samaritan, a kindly girl named Frances who recently lost her mother and is keen on sharing her loneliness with Huppert’s Greta. The two meet up for dinners and Frances helps Greta adopt a dog to keep her company. All appears well until Frances accidentally stumbles upon Greta’s true motivation for befriending her, and then, as they say, the fun begins. And, boy, what fun it is. The film flits around various generic conventions of both past and present horror—particularly stalker thriller, skeletons in the closet, and abduction nightmare—with a gleeful focus on Huppert’s psychotic scheming as Moretz tries to rid herself of her scourge. Like any good psycho-biddy spectacle, the emphasis is mainly on the villain’s unpredictability and the various twists and unrevealed secrets that await us; the plot itself is just cohesive enough to remain plausible without striving to be a masterpiece. So, no, it does not always make sense logistically, and I’m sure you could make an extensive inventory of its absurdities. Then again, isn’t schlock more fun when it doesn’t strive for consistency?
That doesn’t mean there isn’t substance to be found here. The film seems pointedly critical of lax and ineffectual procedural systems that inadvertently imperil women because the rules are never in their favour to begin with, be it long wait times for restraining orders or the distribution of personal rights in public spaces regardless of what is being done in them. What Greta is able to get away with may seem ludicrous at first glance, but given how broken the American legal system is, I can imagine some viewers not batting an eye over anything that happens. Then there is the open conversation being made about loneliness as a syndrome, and whether it is as destructive to our mental faculties as this film implies. The answer is not clear-cut, since it’s revealed Greta’s problems were present even before she lost her family members. One can conceivably argue for a middle-ground position, though I’d say the way Maika Monroe’s character is used here places it more in the “one friend is better than none” camp. Which is the camp I ascribe to! This camp, and all the camp!
Oh, Greta. Objectively I know you’re not all that great, but in my heart you gave me a lot of joy in your 98 minutes. You are not that ill-fated glass of Chablis, promising a lot and then disappointing. You are more like a Chopin concerto that fills the room and makes you dance (with a hypodermic syringe).