Cinematic Releases: Greta (2019) Reviewed

Mostly prevalent in the late '80s and early '90s, the "Stalker Film" was known for its erotic and psychological elements, typically focusing on a man or woman's dangerous obsession with their former lover. Since the '90s, this particular thriller sub-genre has mostly died out, only occasionally popping up here and there, but rarely as something memorable. In the last couple years however, there have been a couple new stalker films, albeit, with some notable changes. Ingrid Goes West turned the stalker film into a heartfelt comedy, and Unsane, notable for having been shot on an iPhone, focused on the shadier aspects of the mental health industry. Greta, directed by Neil Jordan, appears to be a return to the more traditional elements of the stalker film.

Like films such as Fear, or Fatal Attraction, it focuses on one individual's obsession with the protagonist. Unlike those films, where the obsession was a result of an affair or relationship that ended badly, Greta centers on a friendship between Greta, played by Isabelle Huppert, and Frances, played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Rather than the main plot kicking in as a result of Frances merely getting creeped out by Greta, the action starts when she discovers a collection of handbags Greta has stowed away, indicating that Greta not only orchestrated their meeting, but has done it repeatedly in the past. Naturally, this terrifies Frances, who immediately breaks off all contact with Greta. It's this action that sets Greta off on her obsessive stalking of Frances. This whole second act of the film is rife with all the standard stalker film cliches. Greta waits outside Frances place of employment. She sends her pictures of her roommate Erica that she's followed around, etc. This is all entertaining stuff to watch, and of course keeps me engaged, yet it's also where this film falters when it has the potential for greatness.

Oh my! Look at the size of that sandwich!

The turning point of the film is Frances discovering Greta's collection of handbags, indicating her dark pattern. My question here is what would have happened if Frances had never made this discovery? Of course this story would have led to the same conclusion that it did, but I would love to have somehow seen some sort of exploration of how this discovery separated Frances from Greta's other victims. Had any of these other girls found out about her before she made it obvious? What was Greta's normal procedure with them? If Frances had never found the bags, how long would it have taken to discover Greta's true intentions? These are the kinds of questions I find myself asking as this film continues with its paint by numbers formula.

Greta was a return to the standard stalker film that lands with a whimper rather than a bang. It had the potential to introduce some new elements innovative to the genre, but instead, decided to stick to the standard twists and turns we've all seen dozens of times. Every hint that should have been subtle was loud, and every big twist that should have been shocking was predictable. Sure, I had fun while I was watching it, but Greta is a film that's already fading from my memory, which is never a good sign.

-Derek Miranda