★★★☆☆

SIDNEY KIMMEL ENTERTAINMENT | Isabelle Huppert, above, and Chloë Grace Moretz excelled in their roles in “Greta,” but the film ultimately fell short in its plot and ineffectual side characters. 

Director and writer Neil Jordan, known for “The Crying Game” and “Breakfast on Pluto,” returns with his new thriller “Greta.” While impressive acting by both Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz in the lead roles cultivated excitement in the run-up to the film, it still fell somewhat short of its potential with a rushed plot and too many unnecessary characters that had minimal impact.

The film begins with Frances McCullen, played by Moretz, a young woman working as a waitress at an upscale restaurant in New York City while living at her wealthy friend’s apartment. While she is returning home on the subway one day, she sees a handbag left on a seat and decides to return it to its owner, Greta Hideg, played by Huppert. Frances starts to develop a friendship with Greta, but she soon realizes that the older woman is a safety threat, who uses the bag trick to lure unsuspecting young women to her. After Frances severs ties with Greta, the woman’s obsessive stalking commences.

Both Moretz and Huppert deserve praise for their compelling performances. As the protagonist, Moretz excellently portrays the role of a young woman terrified by a psychopathic stalker who follows her at every moment. She also aptly portrays the desperation of Frances trying to get help from public authorities, as well as her frustration when her troubles are so easily ignored by the police.

On the other hand, Huppert exceptionally illustrates both the emotions and physicalities of the psychopathic stalker Greta, as she easily makes use of Frances’s vulnerabilities to take control of her life. Huppert’s tranquil yet scary facial expressions and her calm yet frightening dialogues capture how a stalker would probably think and act in real life.

However, the plot certainly seemed more rushed than it needed to be. Less than 20 minutes into the film, Frances and Greta are depicted to be almost best friends, even though Frances’s friend Erica, played by Maika Monroe, constantly cautions France about getting too close to the strange, older woman. Audiences could rationalize that, as a skilled psychopath, Greta would know how to ensnare vulnerable, young women. However, the fact that an adult woman, no matter how nice, would approach a stranger without any suspicion and so quickly befriend her makes the film lose a realistic touch that would intensify the fear. This hurried plot development makes the film feel unevenly paced and stagnant midway through, making the climax come off unnatural to the detriment of the careful craft of building tension.

Furthermore, a few characters within the film seemed to have minimal effect on the overall plot and the development of the main characters. For instance, Frances’ widowed and recently remarried father, Chris McCullen, played by Colm Feore, only appears consistently in the film once it addresses Frances’ relationship with him. However, Frances’ relationship with Chris does not seem to aid her struggle to free herself from Greta’s threats and continuous stalking. Chris also barely makes any effort to aid his only daughter’s escape from the dangerous psychopath once he learns of the situation. As a result, many audience members would question the director’s choice in including Chris in the plot at all from the beginning if he was going to have such little influence on the main character. Had Jordan dedicated more time to this relationship, it could have not only added to the emotional complexity of the film but also made his character feel less superfluous.

Overall, “Greta” is a decent thriller that will leave its viewers intrigued by the solid performances of Huppert and Moretz as they portray the villain and victim throughout the subversive film. Nevertheless, its rushed plot as well as underdeveloped characters prevent the film from being laudable in its entirety.

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