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‘Greta’ is an art-house version of a B-movie thriller

Written and directed by Oscar-winning director Neal Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with a Vampire, The Butcher Boy) and starring the reigning queen of French cinema, Isabelle Huppert, Greta may have the gloss of high art, but it’s really after nothing more profound than cheap thrills and maybe a jolt or two to our nervous system.

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And on that score, it delivers. With a knowing smile, or course.

Greta fully embraces the implausible, even the ridiculous, in order to cash in on the adrenaline-rush delights that a genre film can offer. Taken in the right vein, Greta is a lark.

The movie starts innocently enough. A young woman named Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) finds a nice handbag left on the New York City subway, and she decides to return it to its owner, an elegant, sixty-something French lady in Brooklyn (Isabelle Huppert).

Initially, this seems like a perfect match. Frances’ mother has recently died and, with Greta’s daughter living abroad, the two of them form a nice mother-daughter bond. At least until that one night when Frances, scrounging around Greta’s home for candles, happens upon a cupboard full of identical handbags, each with a different woman’s name and phone number.

Cue the scary music.

Frances manages to slip away that night, but Greta begins to stalk her with more and more insistent and desperate attempts at communication. Reminiscent of Single White Female, and Fatal Attraction, Greta allows Huppert to “chew the scenery” as she becomes more and more unhinged. Paradoxically, the more outrageous her actions, the more controlled is her bearing.

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And no matter how far-fetched the circumstances, certain key scenes — scenes involving, say, a cookie cutter, or a hypodermic needle, or a Vivaldi-scored restaurant table-flip — are going to be hard to forget.

Chloe Grace Moretz says that she and Huppert shared many good laughs between scenes to help relieve the tension on set. If you approach Greta the right way, you too will get a lot of good, appreciative laughs amidst the generic thrills and chills. This is high-end schlock.

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