Sometimes a movie will present a simple premise, but if it is perfectly executed, it doesn’t matter if it is simple, familiar, or just plain silly. Greta (2019) is NOT one of those films. Instead, the simple premise offered in the marketing is not only all you get, but the script is weak (or much of the film ended up on the editing room floor, leaving that impression of the script) and the performances are uneven. The film is a mere 98 minutes in length, but you feel every one of them as the clunky dialogue weaves its way through many moments that add nothing to the narrative. Simply put, Greta is skippable, forgettable, and just bad.
Follow the slogan of Greta, don’t take the bait. Skip this movie.
Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a small town girl (from Boston) living in New York, so when she finds an abandoned handbag on the subway, she’s just got to do the right thing. Despite the warnings of her New York roommate, Erica Penn (Maika Monroe), Frances takes the bag to Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert) at her home. Frances befriends the widow, who is very lonely – and she sees a kindred spirit in that loneliness, since Frances’s mother has apparently recently passed. This friendship turns crazy after Frances confronts Greta upon the discovery that the handbag was one of many that Greta leaves around the city in an effort to lure people into “friendships”.
Moretz appears very disinterested in her role; furthermore, this seems to have been a constant issue with her for a while now. She used to be a sign of quality, but since 5th Wave, it’s almost as if she has taken to the Bruce Willis style of acting. In other words, acting is now simply how she earns her paycheck, and she has no real passion for what she is doing. This is, of course, simply my read on her performances – but if you compare her current films to her earlier ones, there is a clear difference in quality.
Isabelle Huppert seems to be having a bit more fun with this film, but the dialogue Greta is given doesn’t truly sell that. This is true of most of the lines in this film. The script is clearly the biggest issue when looking at Greta. Character motivations often feel unclear – and while I’m completely fine with a heightened reality, there is no real sense of what is happening at any given time: both from my take on the film, and the characters’. In fact, after Frances has had quite a traumatic experience, she asks another character how long something has taken…and the response is as bewildering as the film itself. No one – not even the people experiencing the events on the screen – seems to have a clue of what is happening, or why.
There were many moments during the movie that I felt frustrated, and I couldn’t stop myself from uttering a sound or word in my dismay, starting even early on when we are told that Frances feels compelled to return her purse because that’s what they do where she comes from. This line sounds like the follow-up would be that she’s from some midwest town where everyone knows everyone…but then she said “Boston”. BOSTON! If you’ve ever been to Boston and New York, you’d know that both are quite large, and people tend to be of the dog-eat-dog variety – much more than this crazy difference being used as a character trait. In the off-chance she’d said “Austin”, I still believe that this personality trait wouldn’t hold up anymore.
There are plenty of examples I could give to back up my claim that this movie just isn’t any good. However, I feel like there is enough evidence here to support the idea. I’d really hoped that it would at least be enjoyable if not remarkable, but instead, I was squirming in my seat to stay interested. This is definitely not one to waste your time with. For the sake of full disclosure, I was informed right before seeing this film that my Sinemia account had been terminated, and then saw a Business Insider article where 50 or so others had experienced the same, unfair termination. Thus, maybe Greta had no chance to win me over. Either way, Greta earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.