A suspense movie should not be solved in 20 minutes — or even five minutes. It takes the fun out of solving a mystery or figuring out a villain. “Greta” gives its punch away in 10 minutes, but it never lets go of its crazy, cheesy side in this psycho biddy revival.
Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young, naive woman from the small town of Boston, Massachusetts, who has just graduated from college. Her roomate, Erica (Maika Monroe), has a large apartment in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood and invites her fellow Smith College grad to crash with her there. To “make ends meet” (read: have spending money to see 3-D movies), Frances is a waitress at an upscale restaurant in the Upper East Side. She sees a high-price purse left on the train, and not being a New Yorker and not calling the bomb squad, she traces the handbag back to Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a lonely widow who plays the piano. In Greta, Frances finds a foster mother in a big, sad place after her own mother dies. The frail-looking technophobe sees a new object to obsess over.
Writer/director Neil Jordan, best known for crafting twisted plots with previous titles “The Crying Game” and “The Brave One,” puts in the shock and awe right at the beginning. Frances learns fairly quickly that Greta is off the rails. Their cute mother/daughter relationship deteriorates in a matter of days, instead of weeks. And while Jordan doesn’t mock the audience’s intelligence, he isn’t away to play with it either.
If you missed “Huppert season” two years ago, when she made top performances in the French-language films “Elle” and “Things to Come,’ her role in “Greta” is not to those levels. However, Huppert fans will get a kick out of seeing her go all out as the obsessed piano teacher (yes, she’s a piano teacher again, but not as good and subtly crazy as she was in “The Piano Teacher”). Huppert shouts, dances and Facebook stalks her way in pure delight. It’s like she’s on vacation from being a serious actress, bringing back the pscyhodramatic acting that Bette Davis did in the 1960s.
Moretz wears a mask of fear and simple-mindedness throughout the film, but luckily the plot justifies her actions. For every dumb move she makes, there’s an equally stupid obstacle that gets in her way, whether it be the police, Greta or New York transportation. The Moretz in “Kick-Ass” would not recognize this Moretz. Monroe, who has seen her share of horror and psychos in “It Follows” and “The Guest,” serves as the voice of privilege and reason. Jordan favorite Stephen Rea makes an appearance, and take a wild guess what happens to him.
The saving grace of “Greta” is its length; it’s only 98 minutes long. If Denis Villeneuve, the current master of the dramatic twist, had directed this, it would be nearly three hours long and Huppert’s acting would go from level 11 to level 2. It’s a quick escape movie for the brain, and no brain cells will be harmed from watching it.
Two and a half stars out of five.