In playing the abject plot points of a thriller, the essence of the noir and gender roles always can play a basis in the plot. By changing the dynamics, the intention can become darker in behavior and motivated by different inklings of character. Granted the idea needs to be motivated but it also has to have the right actors making the progression work. “Greta” as a movie is interesting in its set up but gets a little sloppy in terms of its irony as it moves towards its conclusion. Isabelle Huppert gives a dynamic approach to a reverse sort of Hitchcock anti-hero/villain whose focus seems idealized but slowly falls into disrepair. Chloe Grace Moretz works in the same dynamic but in reverse with a inherent bravery that shows a lack of fear and focused intention. The ideology is understood yet the choices and decisions of each show a vicious nature and naivete respectively. However the want from both sides can and is misdirected a times.
Moretz’s character is completely correct in her response but also short sighted in her impact. All the characters see through the other’s lies which is why it is harder for the less experienced protagonist to outfox an older, more cunning adversary. Maika Monroe plays an additional key role in Moretz’s roommate and while her plot intuition and points are valid, her actions can be foreseen. Director Neil Jordan, known for his movies such as “The Crying Game” and “Interview With A Vampire” knows how to approach this kind of film with uneasiness but also with a sense of the macabre which made “Interview” such a dynamic film. Jordan’s films aren’t for all viewers but do approach the essence of human behavior in an alterior way. The way he approaches little details either in the way that Isabelle Huppert orders her wine or deals with her new dog gives the characters a sense of pinpoint accuracy without pure psychological definition.
New York gets a couple of moments though the main interiors seem to have been shot mostly in Toronto. While the film keys nto almost a “Rear Window” motif on the imprint of the initial trailer, its essence becomes more of a psychological thriller in the full viewing. The dark hues of shadows that are hallmarks of Jordan’s work are very much in play within the movies in the night time scenes. The wide shots in the entrances of the subway systems in New York also relay the claustrophobic expanse of the underground world.
The deleted scenes add some small elusive details that don’t summarily affect the plot but the aspect of the firing of Moretz’s character, Huppert’s research of her protege per se and a family member’s subsequent runaround in the legal system in NY do give a greater sense of the world and the requisite plot machinations. The “Enemies & Friends” featurette shows the essence of what appealed to the actresses from different perspective, not the least being creating a psychological thriller with 3 female leads that does not need a male focal point to help drive or resolve the plot. All said, “Greta” is an effective psychological thriller with a degree of tension balanced with formulaic structure using a different construct to propel its characters.
By Tim Wassberg
When “Serenity” was released earlier in the year, the essence of the cast and what seemed to be a noir structure gave it definite want-to-see possibility. Matthew McConaughey’s choices are always divisive but he has a certain idea of almost existential progression in most of his roles. The idea for example of making “Sea of Trees” or “Free State Of Jones” perceives to this thematic structure of his work. This film is no different though its blend of high concept and locale might be too much for some viewers to take or give patience to. With a director like Steven Knight, known for “Peaky Blinders”, the blend does have possibility but this is not Christopher Nolan or “Interstellar” for that matter. The comparison obviously moves in play since Anne Hathaway is a catalyst of sorts here as well as she was in that previous movie though in a different structure. The vamp structure she employs here might be a function of not just the plot but the rules that are set forth in the narrative. This blend of what motivates characters and indeed what their ultimate goals are is an interesting quandary within the story.
The film was shot on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean off of South Africa so the locale has an otherworldly quality in that the viewer almost can’t place where it is. Many of the characters are caricatures in this way but again that is a function of the plot without giving anything away. In selling a movie, subtlety and the way a film unfolds is much more criticized than ever before which made this specific release even tougher.
What “Serenity” does have is almost an 80s genre twist while similarly on a restrictive budget but with decent or at least recognizable stars. Diane Lane plays a character that is almost a piggy bank at times for McConuaghney’s Dell. Again when it all is said and done…her character makes sense within the structure even if it is light. Dijmon Honsou who also starred with McConaughey in Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad” also plays a structural part in the idea. He becomes a voice of reason but also one that unbalances the motivation. Again a specific notion of the plot. Even Jason Clarke as the baddie per se, has a specific arch that is meant as a commentary on what the underlying structure of the story actually is.
Towards the end, the breakdown of exposition might have been too much for audiences to handle because, while it is an intriguing idea, the dialogue, even though it is meant to be stilted at times, overplays its idea. The exposition, in addition, tries too hard even though there are holes in motivation and plot which are too glaring to ignore. Also, some of the sequences and the imagery, especially the jump cuts and McConaughey’s venture through water, may be symbolic but mostly function flat. In terms of technical, the transfer brings out the beauty of the location but the slipshod nature of some of the visual effects takes away from some of the power certain sequences could have had. There are no additional material on the disc, so the movie simply functions on its possibilities which may in time form an idea of one of those genre movies that tried but didn’t quite connect. However it might be one that will be revisited in years to come.
By Tim Wassberg