I always worry a little bit about Chloe Grace Moretz.
Seriously, it seems as if every film in which she appears features her either losing her entire family or getting stalked by some psycho or both. It’s rare that she ever gets to play someone who is happy with their life. Even when she was cast against type as a spoiled, vacuous brat in Clouds of Sils Maria, she still came across as being the saddest spoiled, vacuous brat imaginable. Obviously, Mortez has the dramatic talent necessary to play these type of roles and, out of all the young actresses working today, she seems the most likely to still have an interesting career 30 years from now. Still, it’s hard not to wish that she could just do a nice, romantic comedy at some point in the future, if just to give her a break from constantly being menaced on screen.
This year’s Chloe Moretz Gets Stalked film was Greta. In this one, Moretz plays Frances McMullen, a waitress living in New York City. Frances lives in a nice loft, has a fantastic roommate and best friend named Erica (Maika Monroe), and a strained relationship with her wealthy father (Colm Feore). As is typical of any character played by Chloe Moretz, Frances is still struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her mother.
After Frances finds an expensive handbag on the subway, she returns it to its owner, a piano teacher named Greta Hibeg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta claims to be French and says that she’s been lonely ever since her daughter left home to study music in France. Frances needs a substitute mother. Greta needs a substitute daughter.
Can you tell where this is going?
If you said, “Together, they solve crimes!,” — well, you’re wrong but you’re still my hero. Instead, what all this leads to is Greta becoming rather obsessed with Frances. When Frances discovers that Greta has a whole closet full of handbags and that she’s not even French, Frances decides to end their friendship. However, Greta will not take no for an answer. Soon, Greta is following both Frances and Erica all around New York City. Greta even goes to Frances’s place of employment and makes a scene that leads to Frances losing her job. (Considering the amazingly ugly waitress uniform that Frances was required to wear, I’d say that Greta was doing her a favor.) Eventually, it all leads to a kidnapping, a drugging, and an unexpected visual gag involving the Eiffel Tower.
About 30 minutes into Greta, there’s a scene in which Isabelle Huppert spits a piece of chewing gum into Chloe Moretz’s hair and it was at that moment that I knew that I was going to absolutely love this film. I mean, there have been a lot of films made about people being stalked but it takes a certain amount of demented genius to have one of the world’s most acclaimed actresses actually spit a piece of gum into someone’s hair. Brilliantly, the film follows this up with a scene of Frances and Erica trying to press assault charges against Greta, all because of the gum incident. The cop is so cynical and unimpressed by their story that you just know that Frances is probably like the hundredth person to get attacked by chewing gum in just that day.
My point here is that there’s absolutely nothing subtle about Greta and we’re all the better for it. As directed by Neil Jordan, Greta is a thoroughly excessive and deliberately campy little film and definitely not one to be taken too seriously. Everything, from the lush cinematography to Greta’s sudden rages, is wonderfully over-the-top. While Moretz wisely underplays her role (because, after all, someone has to keep things at least vaguely grounded in reality), Maika Monroe and especially Isabelle Huppert dive head first into the film’s melodramatic atmosphere. Huppert, especially, deserves a lot of credit for her ferocious performance as Greta. Whether she’s cheerfully celebrating a murder by doing an impromptu dance or suddenly screaming in Hungarian, Huppert is never less than entertaining while, at the same time, remaining credible as a very threatening individual. One of the great joys of Greta is watching this masterful French actress play a Hungarian who is obsessed with Paris. (It’s also probably not a coincidence that Greta is obsessed with someone named Frances.)
There’s an interesting subtext to the Greta and Frances relationship, one that goes beyond a girl who needs a mother and a woman who needs a daughter. In many of the scenes where Greta stalks Frances, Huppert plays her as if she’s a spurned lover, crying out, “I love you!” and demanding that Frances return her phone calls. As for Frances, she’s portrayed as being an almost absurdly repressed single girl who spends all of her personal time with two very different women, the accepting and fun-loving Erica and the predatory and destructive Greta. (When Erica tells Frances that a guy who is interested in her is throwing a party, Frances says that she already has plans with Greta.) Watching Greta, it occurred to me that the film was really about Frances coming to terms with her own sexuality, with Greta representing her fears and Erica representing the peace of accepting who you are. The film may be about Greta stalking Frances but it’s also about Frances struggling to decide whether to give in to her fears or to accept her own identity.
Then again, it’s also totally possible that there’s no intentional subtext at all to this film. It might just be an entertaining film about Isabelle Huppert stalking Chloe Moretz. And that’s fine, too! Either way, it’s a fun movie.