Tag Archives: Isabelle Huppert

Greta (2018, Neil Jordan)

Greta is exceedingly competent. It’s way too unimaginative, predictable, traditional, and restrained in the final third, but it’s always exceedingly competent at those things. Even after it’s clear top-billed Isabelle Huppert isn’t going to create a singular cinema villain and even after it’s clear she’s not even as good as she was in the first hour… she’s always exceedingly competent. Ditto de facto lead Chloë Grace Moretz; she gets thin, melodramatic backstory, an annoying sidekick, a boring job, and a bland dad, but she always makes it work. Greta’s even able to make its utterly predictable last shot work.

Probably because the whole thing is utterly noncommittal and emotionally exploitative until the thriller dangers take over.

The film doesn’t start out noncommittal or emotionally exploitative. The first act at least hints at some sincerity—another of the script’s efficiencies—Moretz is a recent college (Smith, natch) graduate living the dream in New York City. Literally. She works as a waitress, but has no future ambitions and doesn’t need any because she lives with good friend Maika Monroe, whose dad bought her a loft for college graduation. Monroe doesn’t appear to do anything but yoga and party. Again, efficiency after efficiency. Moretz’s dad, Colm Feore, lives back in Boston. Moretz came to New York not because she gets to live rent-free in a bitchin’ loft but because her mom died the year before and she’s grieving. It’s implied Feore grieved his way immediately into another marriage, but it’s never explained. Because efficiency. And also the implied detail makes the film less shallow.

So one day Moretz finds a handbag on the train and—thanks to the lost and found not being open—has to bring it back to the owner herself. The owner is French-ish Isabelle Huppert, who lives all by herself because her husband died the year before and her daughter is off in Paris. Huppert and Moretz immediately bond, much to Monroe’s chagrin—she feels like Moretz is judging her negatively for being a superficial rich girl (which Moretz can’t be because she doesn’t do yoga and also dead mom). Except (and it happens before the second act) it turns out Huppert is seriously creepy creeper and Moretz tries to break off their relationship, only for Huppert to start stalking her. And eventually Monroe, leading to some great thriller sequences from Jordan, cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, and editor Nick Emerson.

Huppert’s stalking gets worse, leading to bigger and bigger set pieces, until the last third (or so) of the film when the danger to Moretz starts to become far more literal. No more foreshadowing, no more backstory hints (and the ones the film has revealed add up to nothing because of how the third act plays), just terror.

The conclusion is a mix of predictable, problematic, satisfying, and truncated. Greta runs just less than a hundred minutes and definitely could use a more thorough denouement. Jordan and co-writer Ray Wright go for intensity to get the film to the finish, which is fine in the moment, it just doesn’t add up to anything. Nothing in the film adds up to anything. None of the suspicions, none of the characters’ traumatic histories, none of the characters’ criminal histories (private investigator Stephen Rea discovers more about Huppert from one file folder than the cops do after multiple interactions with both Huppert and Moritz); none of it matters in the end. So no character development, not for Moritz or Huppert. Moritz definitely needed some. Huppert, if the villain role were better, might be able to get away without it. But the role’s not better. It’s lacking. Even if she does power through the third act quite well.

Moritz is good too, though the film’s patronizing towards her, like it resents her for not having enough to do because it doesn’t give her enough to do. Monroe gets better as things go on. She’s good at action, not at exposition. She’s real rough in the first act.

Rea’s great.

Feore’s okay. It’s a perfect role for stunt-casting or a character actor and instead it’s filler with Feore.

Like I said, it’s all exceedingly competent, making Greta a successful viewing experience without being a successful film.

It’s too bad. A better, sincerer, more ambitious script could’ve given Huppert, Moretz, and Monroe some great roles.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Neil Jordan; screenplay by Ray Wright and Jordan, based on a story by Wright; director of photography, Seamus McGarvey; edited by Nick Emerson; music by Javier Navarrete; production designer, Anna Rackard; produced by Lawrence Bender, James Flynn, Sidney Kimmel, John Penotti, and Karen Richards; released by Focus Features.

Starring Isabelle Huppert (Greta Hideg), Chloë Grace Moretz (Frances McCullen), Maika Monroe (Erica Penn), Zawe Ashton (Alexa Hammond), Stephen Rea (Brian Cody), and Colm Feore (Chris McCullen).


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The Bedroom Window (1987, Curtis Hanson)

Given The Bedroom Window was part of my VHS EP collection, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. I do know I haven’t seen it in at least a decade and I also know this time is the first I’ve ever wondered about the source novel. The Bedroom Window is very busy; maybe director Hanson wants to distract the audience from where the movie’s going–which he really can’t since “guest star” Elizabeth McGovern gets second-billing–but maybe it’s from the novel. Maybe it’s a really long novel and Hanson, who also wrote the screenplay, had trouble adapting the pace.

But the novel’s only 200 pages. So it’s Hanson.

A good thriller, not even a great one, needs some fusion between the storytelling and the filmmaking. Hitchcockian means the way the film tells the tricky narrative. Or at least, it needs to have that definition. Because bewildered straight man in trouble isn’t Hitchcockian. It’s pedestrian. In The Bedroom Window’s case, the bewildered straight man is Steve Guttenberg. If it weren’t for Guttenberg’s rather buff physic, it might be funny having Guttenberg do a thriller. But it’s not a spoof, it’s Guttenberg trying.

He doesn’t do well. But he’s affable, surrounded by a lot of good actors, and Hanson is trying just as hard to pull of Guttenberg’s performance. Even though it’s often tedious, The Bedroom Window tries. Well, except when it comes to the composition. Hanson and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor shoot Bedroom Window in Panavision and it doesn’t need it. About the only thing the film’s got going for it visually is the Baltimore locations. Taylor’s photography is pretty flat–even though there are lots of eighties wet streets at night shots–but well-lighted. The city looks amazing and you want to see more of it. It gives Window some slack, which the film always needs.

Guttenberg’s an office guy–he has no responsibilities–who starts schtupping his boss’s wife, Isabelle Huppert in a ludicrous performance in a ludicrous role. Huppert witnesses Elizabeth McGovern getting assaulted, but Guttenberg plays witness to keep the affair a secret. This concept might have worked as late as the early sixties, but it’s just unbelievable in 1987. Hanson’s constantly trying to get away from police procedure, lawyer stuff, because he knows he’s peddling a malarky handling of it.

Instead, he introduces a subplot about Robert Schenkkan’s district attorney–trying rape cases–a complete pig. Only then, almost immediately following a big plot twist, we’re supposed to like Schenkkan again. Why make him a pig? Misdirection. Hanson is not a master. He’s not even moderately adept.

But he’s also ambitious in how responsible he wants to be; he’s trying not to make the film feel exploitative. Though one has to wonder why Huppert, given she and Guttenberg have zero chemistry, other than her willingness to disrobe. When Elizabeth McGovern finally shows up as something other than an object–which, quite frustratingly, isn’t until her second or third scene in the film–she gets a lot of good stuff to do. Even when the content is questionable, McGovern’s performance and Hanson’s handling of her performance are stellar. As much as Hanson wants to sell Steve Guttenberg as Jimmy Stewart, he wants McGovern to have a good part.

He just doesn’t know how. He’s sincere about Bedroom Window, which carries over. You want it to be better. Like the music from Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson. Ninety percent of it is disposable smooth jazz. That other ten percent of it is slightly less disposable smooth jazz. But you still want to hope for it. Like the score will eventually get better. It doesn’t.

Great supporting cast–Carl Lumbly, Wallace Shawn, Frederick Coffin, Brad Greenquist, Maury Chaykin–Hanson uses them for temporary amusement. Actually, lots of people in The Bedroom Window are just “guest starring,” which also leads to it feeling like a two-night TV movie event cut down to one VHS tape.

Real strong editing from Scott Conrad. It occasionally goes bad because of Hanson’s bad ideas, but real strong otherwise. He’s better at editing the dramatic than the suspense.

The Bedroom Window is almost significant for McGovern’s performance. She’s great. But the script’s not there and Hanson’s got too many problems. Instead, it’s a curious bit of eighties popular cinema with some fantastic shots of Baltimore.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Curtis Hanson; screenplay by Hanson, based on a novel by Anne Holden; director of photography, Gil Taylor; edited by Scott Conrad; music by Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson; production designer, Ron Foreman; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Terry Lambert), Elizabeth McGovern (Denise Connelly), Isabelle Huppert (Sylvia Wentworth), Paul Shenar (Collin Wentworth), Carl Lumbly (Det. Quirke), Frederick Coffin (Det. Jessup), Brad Greenquist (Carl Henderson), Robert Schenkkan (State Attorney Peters), Maury Chaykin (Pool Player) and Wallace Shawn (Henderson’s Attorney).


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