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Reviews for March 1st, 2019

Giant Little Ones

Directed by Keith Behrman




     

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Vertical Entertainment.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.

Greta

Directed by Neil Jordan




      Frances (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) works as a waitress at an upscale restaurant in New York City and lives with a roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe). One day, she finds a green purse on a subway and returns it to its owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a piano teacher. Frances lost her mother while Greta grieves over the death of her husband. They exchange phone numbers and become friends, but their friendship quickly evolves into a toxic relationship when Greta resorts to harassing her and stalking her upon being ignored.

      Greta is essentially about a naive young woman who becomes the source of Narcissistic supply for malignant narcissist much like in Fatal Attraction. Greta has no shame in crossing emotional, physical and other boundaries because she knows she's about to lose her much-needed narcissist supply and she'll do anything to get it back. Frances makes the mistake of telling Greta that her friends nickname her "Chewing Gum" because she tends to always stick around, so Greta uses that statement for her own benefit after Frances tries to avoid her. Frances neglects to heed the advice of a police officer who tells her to simply ignore Greta; instead, when Greta shows up at Frances' workplace and just so happens to get a table in her waiting section, Frances confronts her which is exactly what Greta wanted her to so. Why doesn't Frances block her number? Why doesn't she ask another waitress or her manager to switch her to another section of the restaurant so that she doesn't have to deal with serving Greta? Or why doesn't she simply "grey rock" Greta when interacting with her at the restaurant?

      The screenplay by writer/director Neil Jordan and co-writer Ray Wright remains at least somewhat grounded in realism and understands the dark side of human behavior. Based on my own experiences with narcissists similar to Greta, it's very easy for a narcissist's victim such as Frances to be charmed by a narcissist and to give in to their constant hoovering tactics. As Hitchcock once wisely observed, you should always be cautious of the most charming person in the room. Huppert is perfectly cast in the titular role because she convincingly sinks her teeth into Greta's multifaceted emotional layers.

      Greta, like Norman Bates, is similar to a Russian doll which makes her all the more interesting: on the surface she may seem charming and confident, but deep down she has a lot of ugliness inside of her which includes sadness, loneliness, insecurity and anger. Although it's not 100% clear based on the film, she was probably not loved enough by her mother and father as a child. In many ways, she behaves like a child or even like a baby herself and goes through an "extinction burst" when she doesn't get what she wants from her supply. She's similar to Queene Anne in The Favourite. You can tell that there's an inner life within her even if the screenplay itself doesn't have much emotional depth. In other words, Huppert's terrific performance compensates for the screenplay's emotional shortcomings. ChloŽ Grace Moretz, among the finest young actresses of our time, is also well-cast and gives a raw, heartfelt performance without any hamming.

      It's fascinating to observe the dynamics between Greta and Frances even though some of it feels heavy-handed and contrived. If only Jordan were to have trusted the audience's intelligence and emotions more because there the dialogue at times comes across as too "on the nose" and suffers from overexplaining leaving much room for imagination. At least he doesn't resort to flashbacks, but there's one very cheap gimmick that Siskel and Ebert would've most likely have been annoyed by: a dream sequence (which won't be spoiled here). Greta lacks the subtlety and nuance found in Merci Pour le Chocolat, which also starred Huppert, or With a Friend Like Harry..., but it's nonetheless a wildly entertaining, gripping and wickedly funny psychological thriller as well as an intriguing character study. It's this generation's Fatal Attraction.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Focus Feaures.
Opens in select theaters.
Questions? Comments? Please click here.


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