By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Regrets about “Greta” (Focus)? You’ll have a few. But this psychological thriller still rises to the level of a guilty pleasure thanks to the abundant talent of its lead players, Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz.
Moretz plays naive New York City waitress Frances. Fresh out of college and still mourning the recent death of her mother, Frances spots a lost handbag on the subway and, on returning it, discovers that its owner is the lonely French-accented widow of the title (Huppert).
Despite the red flags raised by Frances’ savvier roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe), she and Greta quickly bond over soupe de poisson and the adoption of a rescue dog to keep Greta company. But all is not, of course, what it seems in director and co-writer Neil Jordan’s pleasantly unsettling chillfest.
Moretz and Huppert create sufficient dynamism to divert attention from the numerous improbabilities at work in the plot. And Jordan, working with script collaborator Ray Wright, holds back any bloodletting until a single sequence that’s all the more shocking for the restraint that has preceded it.
An apparently charming yet slightly sinister out-of-the-way urban setting, misplaced maternal affection run amok and rising to “Mommie Dearest” levels of camp and classical piano music put to macabre use all add up to Gothic fun for grown-ups.
Catholic viewers will note a couple of scenes set in a church where Greta claims her late husband was the organist and where she lights a candle and blesses herself despite simultaneously denying that she’s a believer. Given what follows, she’s not exactly ripe for conversion.
The film contains momentary but intense gory violence, a few gruesome images, references to a lesbian relationship, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and several crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.