Greta is an age old story that we’ve seen trotted out time and time again in thrillers; the big city will eat you alive. In fact this line literally appears in the movie. The issue is no one is as naive as Chloe Grace Moretz’ character which messes with the plot and makes the story far less believable.
The story opens on Moretz’ character Frances McCullen aka Frankie. Frankie is a twenty something, new to New York City, living with her best friend and waitress part time. Her mother recently passed away, which for some reason has led to an argument with her father. We are never sure if it is the fact that her father has moved on, or if there is a third person involved. On her way home from work one night, she finds a forgotten purse. She attempts to turn it in to Lost and Found, but they are closed (As a former New Yorker, I’ve never seen these things actually be open anyway), so she takes the purse home. Her roommate tries to convince her to just steal the money (still the wrong response), and forget about returning it. To be clear there is nothing in the purse aside from $50 worth returning, but Frankie feels it’s her civic duty. She returns the purse, and feels strangely drawn to Greta, the green handbags owner, only to discover when it too late, she cannot get away.
I will give Greta credit; it is fairly fast moving. We quickly get a view of Frankie’s life; she works as a waitress, her mother recently passed, she doesn’t talk to her father and she lives with her BFF. The problem with the film however is evident even in these shallow looks into her background. Frankie is no naive girl, or at least she shouldn’t be. Her clothing and style of dress shows she’s Manhattan chic, and possibly wealthy (parental money)? The film tries to show her best friend is living the socialite lifestyle, but it doesn’t work to juxtapose the two girls, and we have a hard time seeing Frankie as anything but the characters we’ve witness in other Manhattan based movies and shows (Friends, Sex And The City, Spider Man, etc) that show us that living off of waiting tables is not impossible in movie land.
When Greta appears in the movie, we immediately know something is up. (Well besides the fact that the trailer gave away all the good bits). Frankie falls, hook line and sinker for Greta, and the first few days between them almost seems like a romantic relationship. Is it really possible that someone who you just met, could replace your mother that quickly? Plus it’s New York for cripes sake and 2019. One does not simply go into someone’s house because they seemed nice. At this the movie seems almost out of touch with the current climate in which women reside. With reports of abductions or attempted abductions ever rising, if you found a purse on the subway, and the Lost and Found was closed, would you not just take it to the police?
Unfortunately, she does not, and begins canceling plans with other friends to be with Greta. Her roommate’s request to ignore the strange old lady suddenly becomes the best course of action, when Frankie discovers the lost purse is just a ploy to get suspecting young women to take the place of her daughter.
Let’s stop here for a moment and think about this carefully. Greta, an old woman in her 50s or 60s, is living in a beautiful little home, is placing purses around the city in the hopes of meeting someone. IN MANHATTAN. ARE YOU CRAZY?! Out of the thousands of people who ride the subway daily, she’s hoping that none of them are more crazy than she is. Not only this, but as we find out, she’s gotten plenty of women to come to her home, buying the little old lady act. I realize to some people this is easily dismissed, but I couldn’t believe it. New York? Where people are shoved onto the train tracks by other people they don’t know? Where random racial arguments break out causing violence? New Yorkers are notoriously resilient and are likely to pretend they do not see the purse than not only pick it up, but also return it and become friends with the owner. I just could not buy it.
Another completely untenable scene happens when Greta shows up at Frankie’s work and completely loses it.At this point, Frankie knows Greta is crazy. She has shown up outside her job, has spit gum in her hair, and stalked her on the subway. This time Greta shows makes a reservation at Frankie’s job and proceeds to smashes a glass and overturns a table, showing her full on crazy for the whole world to see. At this point, everyone takes Greta seriously and she is carted off to jail. Worried about how much a reprieve she has before having to face Greta again, Frankie calls the NYPD only to discover that Greta has already been released. And this is where the fatal flaw takes place. Rather than simply leaving the city and giving Greta time to wear herself out, and find someone new to fixate on, FRANKIE MEETS GRETA AGAIN. She meets again with a CRAZY woman who has threatened her repeatedly, shown up at her job and one who clearly knows where she lives. She tells Greta that the entire situation is her fault and tells her she’s going away for a bit. At this point, we aren’t sure if Frankie fully intends to leave, but she doesn’t manage to make it before Greta kidnaps her.
Ok so what have we learned? Greta is CRAZY, and that Frankie is NAIVE. But what else should we have known? Oh, right, YOU CANNOT NEGOTIATE WITH CRAZY PEOPLE!!! This is the same woman who she has requested a restraining order against, who has embarrassed her at work, who she already knows caused her own daughter’s suicide, the same daughter that she pretended to talk to on the phone. No. No. NOOOOOOOoooo.
Anyway, Frankie is kidnapped and we come to understand that no matter how slight Greta is, she is a force. She kills easily and manages to subdue a woman half her age multiple times. Frankie is not saved until her best friend figures out how to do what no one else can.
Overall, I give Greta a B. Though Moretz’ character is not at all believeable, (and neither is the plot quite frankly), Isabella Huupert as Greta is amazing. She totally nails the crazy woman, which is no surprise considering she also starred in The Piano Teacher, another thriller. Mailka Monroe also does a superb job as the quick acting best friend. The movie fails only the fact that this could not happen in today’s world (maybe 10 years ago) also, as I was leaving the theater, a few patrons were discussing Frankie’s escape attempts and calling bs on it. Yea, me too. A good movie, if you stop using your brain for a bit.