The Popcorn Periodical
“Greta” boasts an intriguing concept but delivers an absurd story
It’s March Madness at the movies and brand new motion pictures like How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World and Tyler Perry’s A Madea’s Family Funeral are burning up the box office! But while the entire world awaits Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, there’s a little movie called Greta that dares to compete with this month’s silver screen heavy-hitters.
Filmed entirely in Toronto (that’s Bay Station!) and debuting at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Greta takes notes from some of the most daring and comedic 90’s thrillers starring mature women in psychotic roles, like Hush starring Jessica Lange or Teaching Mrs. Tingle starring Helen Mirren. The blueprint goes like this: an older and deranged woman gains the trust of a much younger and unsuspecting protagonist then turns on them in the most cringe-worthy of ways. These particular films of the ’90s gained critical acclaim and/or cult followings, but Greta is a modern day film that will likely fizzle out in comparison to its influencers.
Labelled a contemporary horror/drama/mystery, the scariest part about Greta is how unbelievably silly it is. There are some funny parts, but (unlike Teaching Mrs. Tingle) they weren’t meant to be humorous, so as French actress Isabelle Huppert (Elle) does her absolute best to showcase a sinister side to the seemingly harmless Greta, the titular character is unfortunately written as a mockery of herself, and in turn, garners more laughs than scares. Did she just spit gum in her hair!? LOL!
The story of Greta actually follows a young waitress named Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass, Carrie) who has moved from Boston to Manhattan with her rich friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe, It Follows) to “break in the loft her father bought her.” Life’s peachy, and the two young women are living their best lives on their own in the Big Apple. That is until Frances stumbles upon what seems to be a forgotten leather handbag on the NYC Subway (the cars are littered with American flags and prop signs to make it look like the 6 Train, which is actually Toronto’s TTC), but we know better, don’t we? Frances sure doesn’t, and when she “does the right thing” by returning the handbag to Greta (whose I.D. was conveniently left in an open pocket) things get very… odd.
Of course, Frances ignores all the obvious warning signs, so by the time she realizes the bat shit crazy purse lady is obsessed with her, it’s way too late. Tables are flipped, there’s some heavy stalking a la Netflix’s YOU, and there’s even some celebratory psycho dancing! Marvellous! But it’s all too much and yet too little at the same time. Director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) teams up with screenplay writer Ray Wright (The Crazies) to tell this 1h 38m soap opera but even the cast’s experience in the drama/horror genres couldn’t save Greta from unwanted laughs and eye rolls.
So while Greta’s incredulous behaviour should be disturbing, it translates onto the big screen as comical and – if I’m being frank – absurd. The build-up is predictable, the setting is so obviously not NYC (can’t a movie take place in Toronto, for once?) and the characters are strung along without any real development. You almost don’t even care what happens, as long as Greta keeps up her antics! She’s a hoot! The true enjoyment of this film comes from the performances. And while I wouldn’t recommend watching this movie in theatres (save those dollars for Captain Marvel in IMAX/4DX), I don’t doubt it will make for a good “Netflix & Chill” streaming movie when you’re at home on the weekend and your friend or significant other wants to watch that indie film about the crazy white stalker lady.
“She chose you for a reason.”
2 Popcorn Kernels / 5
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.