Updated: Aug 21, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital copy; 2018; R for some violence and disturbing images; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Greta: Enemies and Friends”
EXPECT the unexpected from writer/director Neil Jordan of “The Crying Game,” “Michael Collins,” “Breakfast on Pluto,” and “Mona Lisa.” His characters are always unique.
Add Isabelle Huppert’s Greta Hideg – the name “Hideg” means “cold” in Hungarian – to his the list, as well as memorable psychos such as Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter, and Annie Wilkes.
Frances McCullen (Cholë Grace Moretz) has just lost her mother and is estranged from her father, who has moved on. Frances herself moves to New York City, where she leans on bestie Erica Penn (Maika Monroe) for help. One day, Frances finds a purse on the subway, then seeks out its owner to return it, only to find Greta Hideg, a sweet, lonely widow played by award-winning French actress Isabelle Huppert. The senior is a retired teacher and pianist who loves classical music. Immediately, Frances falls under her spell, much like those kids who found a gingerbread house in the old stories.
Erica’s reaction to her friend’s new/old buddy is very different. “When she first hears about Greta, she thinks Frances is insane. And I think, also, there’s a tiny bit of jealousy,” Monroe says. It seems unhealthy as Frances spends more and more time with Greta, who quickly becomes a surrogate mother. “You find a bag, you call the bomb squad,” realist Erica says. Right. Before long Greta begins to show her true colors. “She’s a real monster,” Huppert tells us with a big smile.
When Frances stumbles onto one of Greta’s secrets, she runs – but it doesn’t help.
“I was sent the script and it followed the path of a very efficient Hollywood thriller. There was something really intriguing about it because it was amongst three women,” Jordan says in “Greta: Enemies and Friends,” the making-of featurette on the disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
All right. Kudos to the feminist story and its cast. Huppert is a European star. Cholë Grace Moretz became a hit when she played Hit Girl in “Kick Ass.” She’s been in dozens of productions before and since; her life is virtually on film. Maika Monroe thrilled us in “It Follows,” the horror sensation of 2014 that even made waves on PBS. She and Moretz also worked together in “The 5th Wave.”
Except we’re not convinced. The script, co-written by Jordan and Ray Wright (“The Crazies,” “Case 39”), seems somewhat forced with its female buddy/killer storyline. Huppert is ideal, turning from charmer to psycho in an impressive performance. But Frances and Erika are more one-dimensional, and difficult to believe in. Erica’s heroics are notable, but can a twenty-something like Frances be that helpless?
“Greta” is an exclusive Universal Studios/Focus Features 4K Ultra HD release for streaming digital sites. The 3.4K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) capture the footage, which was mastered in 4K and features excellent clarity - especially with the numerous close-ups from Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (“Atonement,” “Anna Karenina”). The 4K and Blu-ray both look very good, with natural, consistent color throughout. Nothing overwhelms, not even the blood. The HDR toning with its expansive contrast levels and light are also quite good, emotionally cued to bright scenes and dark, where shadows prevail as when Frances is imprisoned or Greta gets rid of another body. There is lots of action, with little time for brooding. Detail in costumes and sets are razor sharp, but sometimes softened for effect. The film is set in New York, but mostly filmed in Ireland.
Audio is delivered via an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Dialogue arrives front and center, and is clean and clear. Effects are dramatic and energetic, moving around the room. Music is a key element, with an original score by Javier Navarrete (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and pop tunes such as Julie London’s “Where Are You,” “Let’s Reggae All Night” from CSS, “Salt” from Selk, “Like Never Before” from Artificial Pleasure, and “Cult of Love” from Dum Dum Girls. Classical pieces Liebestraum, The Four Seasons, The Minute Waltz and Moonlight Sonata bring joy and comfort, suspense and terror. It’s a rich and distinguished musical soundtrack.
Despite its shortcomings, “Greta” entertains. Some answers can be found among the nine deleted scenes, the only extra other than the making-of. But this is more a Red Box or streaming rental than a must-have.
— Kay Reynolds