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Traditional stalker fare upheld by the commitment of its performers
"Greta" follows naive, goodhearted Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who has moved to New York City to live with her friend Erica (Maika Monroe). On the subway one day, she finds a bag whose contents indicate it belongs to Greta Hideg, a French woman who lives in Brooklyn. Frances takes a liking to Greta, but soon finds their mother-daughter-esque relationship to be much more than she bargained for.
In many ways, "Greta" strikes as a 21st-century return to the stalker fare of the 1990s, ala "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" or "Single White Female," and for that reason alone it is an adequately fun, all-around entertaining thrill ride. This subgenre of films, although not necessarily known for its grips on reality, has always been a source of great amusement. This is perhaps the most singular thing about "Greta" that audiences need heed before going into it, because it will divide its audience; those who enjoy these films for what they are will get a kick out of it, while those expecting something more innovative will be disappointed.
As someone who finds stalker films of this calibre to be typically enjoyable, I took "Greta" on its own terms and found it a consistent, well-acted popcorn movie. It's implausible in more ways than it's not, its millennial characters live lives that make little sense (how many twenty-somethings live in a chic, 1,000+ square-foot loft in Tribeca?), and the threat of the film's titular Greta relies largely on tropes well-worn. So, why does the film work? Largely, or perhaps entirely, because of the commitment of its performers to the material. Chloë Moretz is believable as the well-meaning Frances, and Isabelle Huppert is unrelenting as the villain. Both actresses throw themselves at the material with so much earnestness that it's difficult not to buy it, no matter how implausible, silly, or frivolous the circumstances. Maika Monroe provides enjoyable comic relief as Moretz's out-of-touch friend, while Stephen Rea makes a minor appearance as a private investigator who arrives in a rather stilted manner near the climax.
Taken on its own terms, "Greta" is a hoot; it's a throwback done well, and is one of the better popcorn thrillers I've seen in the last decade. This doesn't mean it's innovative or particularly intriguing, but it is engrossing in a way that is familiar, and it's fun enough to draw most audiences in. The material itself is well-worn at this point and the audience more or less knows the routine, but Moretz and Huppert's performances are the keys that turn the machine like clockwork. 7/10.
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