Film Review: Greta

Despite a good cast and a decent premise, Neil Jordan’s Greta frustrates with its host of implausibilities. Although the bombast is welcome, it is not enough to save the film.

When Frances finds a handbag left on the subway, she decides to return it to its owner. She returns the handbag to Greta, a lonely widow. The widow strikes up a friendship with the young girl, but all is not what it seems…

Greta is a psychological thriller in the vein of Single White Female. At first glance, writer-director Jordan and co-writer Ray Wright’s film has all the elements to make this type of thriller work. There is the naive, wide-eyed protagonist. There is of course the unnerving antagonist. There is the initial set up with the undercurrent of unease. 

Despite these aspects, the film falters early on. There are too many plot holes, asking the audience to suspend disbelief too much and too early. The early harassment phase is palatable enough, even generating tension at times. The film goes off the deep end completely in the second half, and doubles down rather than attempting a recovery. Jordan settles on a flamboyant take, which viewers need to be fully on board with. The camp theatrics are not quite convincing enough to forgive the impossibilities.

There is too much in the narrative that is implausible. The actions of the protagonist defy logic. Moreover, Greta works well as an antagonist in the psychological rather than physical sense. The final third is nonsensical, given the parity in strength between the two main characters. Two late scenes involving additional characters are particularly silly. 

The score is overwrought, coming in too early for its intensity. Visual effects are decent, as is the production design. Isabelle Huppert is simply too good for the material. She hams it up adequately, revelling in the ridiculousness rather than playing it straight. Meanwhile, Chloë Grace Moretz is more earnest than the film deserves. Maika Monroe is decent in a supporting role.

Greta is too exasperating to be enjoyable. Neil Jordan has a flair for the flamboyant, but does not manage to pull it off successfully here.

Film Review: The Roommate

The Roommate is the illegitimate progeny of a number female psychopath movies. Nevertheless, this is not to say the film isn’t enjoyable.

Sara Matthews moves into her college dorm, looking forward to meeting her new roommate. When they meet later that evening, Rebecca seems sweet and amiable. However, their budding friendship quickly turns to obsession for Rebecca. Jealous of everyone else in Sara’s life, Rebecca goes to extreme measures to maintain her friendship with her roommate…

The Roommate references several other films. Most prominent of these is Single White Female, which features a near-identical plot. References to Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct are also palpable. The Roommate acts almost as a wry homage to these films by making allusions so overt. Unfortunately, director Christian E. Christiansen does nothing particularly interesting with these influences; they are in no way contorted or refreshed.

The Roommate is a very predictable film. There is little in the narrative that viewers familiar with its predecessors will not see coming. However, the film works well as a guilty pleasure, if you allow yourself to wallow in the trashiness of it all. The Roommate has no delusions of grandeur, and is a better film for not taking itself too seriously.

Except for Rebecca and Sarah, the characters in the film appear rather one-dimensional. Love interest Stephen is little more than a support buffer for Sara; there is not much more to the character than this. Likewise, Irene is brought in to serve a function, as is Tracey, who effectively disappears after the first half of the film. Rebecca is at least given some thought; the Thanksgiving scenes providing some background and context to her disturbed personality.

The Roommate is a glossy production. The lush surroundings of the campus are juxtaposed with the darkness of Rebecca’s mind. The bright and pleasant campus setting is often contrasted with the frequently dark and shadowy shared room. The soundtrack to the film is good, and very much in keeping with the style and youthfulness of The Roommate.

Leighton Meester makes a convincing psychopath as Rebecca. Her name is likely to bring in teen Gossip Girl fans, and perhaps older admirers. Minka Kelly shares a striking resemblance to Meester, and is suitable cast as Sara. Cam Giganet is enthusiastic as Stephen, but is given little to work with.

The Roommate is not exactly inspired work. Nonetheless the movie is fun, in a distracting rather than engrossing way. Decimate expectations and enjoy The Roommate for what it is.