Sometimes, despite having the very best ingredients, a master chef can occasionally dish up something that fails to tantalise the taste buds and the same applies with making movies. Even the best filmmakers sometimes find themselves concocting something that sounds delicious, but ultimately tastes like cardboard, and that is very much the case with this latest effort from Academy Award-winning Irish director Neil Jordan. With Greta, Jordan has served up something that is stale, predictable and unintentionally funny. Even having French national treasure Isabelle Huppert in the title role can’t lift this film beyond merely mediocre in its very best moments. Huppert and co-stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe are hampered by a ham-fisted screenplay, gaping plot holes, a signposted series of events and a distinct lack of logic that make the whole thing about as appetising as a limp salad.
Jordan, of course, is responsible for the devilishly delicious The Crying Game (for which he received an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), but this a far cry from those heady days. The Greta of the title is a middle-aged woman who lives alone in an apartment in New York. When she leaves an expensive handbag on the subway, Moretz’s Frances retrieves it and returns it to her, a gesture that only serves as the catalyst for a world of torment that comes her way. Frances’ housemate Erica (Monroe) tries to warn her about the danger of the big city (apparently Frances is naïve to the perils of life in a large metropolis because she is from that tiny rural outpost known as Boston) and it turns out, in what is a surprise to no one, that Greta is indeed a little unhinged. In fact, she possesses a whole cupboard full of identical bags that she has used to lure other young women into her orbit. Upon making this discovery, every effort Frances makes to sever ties with Greta results in more disturbing behaviour at every turn until the nutbag eventually lands her prey.
Every crazy lady cliché abounds in the characterisation of Greta and the less-than-subtle clues along the way remove any suspense from the tale. We know that Greta’s daughter is dead the moment Frances draws attention to a photo of her, even though Greta pretends she is alive and living in France. Erica is relishing her ‘I told you so’ moment until the shit gets real and Frances disappears. Waking to find herself confined in a wooden box – another development we knew was coming due to a conversation Frances had with a friend of Greta’s daughter – Frances is now at the mercy of her deranged stalker. Will she survive? Um, hello, of course she will, this is a movie after all. A cameo from Stephen Rea as private detective Brian Cody is so pointless that his scenes could, and should, have been excised in the final cut. About five minutes after being hired by Frances’ father Chris (Colm Feore), Cody has tracked down Greta and is summarily despatched in quick time, at which point Chris seems to have given up on searching for his daughter because he is never seen again.
Jordan tries to liven things up with some gore, except the moment we see Frances eyeing off the cookie cutter in Greta’s hand, what happens next comes as no surprise whatsoever, nor does the fact that, having created an opportunity to escape, Frances takes all the wrong options and instead of calling the police or smashing the glass panel in the front door and scrambling out, she flees into the basement, playing right into the (mutilated) hands of her captor. Much of what transpires is cringe-worthy in its execution and it is Monroe, who was so good in her 2014 breakout It Follows but has been confined to schlock ever since, who fares best of the three actresses, but that isn’t saying much. Devoid of any real thrills, the most frightening thing about Greta is the way in which the final frame is set up as such a blatant starting point for a sequel.