There are two problems that popped into my mind when I sat down to write this review. The first problem was that the trailer gave too much away. It would’ve been much more exciting to not see Isabelle Huppert go from being lonely and clingy, to full-out bunny boiling, batsh** crazy. The second problem is that the movie just sucks; because, having a derivative thriller that will make people think most of Single White Female…or the more recent Ingrid Goes West (Aubrey Plaza), or going way back to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction…isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now, onto the third problem. The casting is awful. Not that of Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass). I’m always surprised that she went from a child actor to nicely slipping into young adult roles. She has this doe-eyed innocence that’s perfect for the part. It’s Huppert, a French actress that has done many great films (stay away from Elle from a few years ago, though). She doesn’t seem believable or that scary; and the script and direction of the movie is awful. That’s surprising, considering this was written/directed by Neil Jordan, who snagged an Oscar for writing The Crying Game. And his films Interview with a Vampire and The Company of Wolves weren’t bad either. In this, he trying for a psychological thriller with lots of scares, but it just becomes a campy B-movie.
Here’s the story. Frankie McCullen (Moretz) finds a purse on the subway. I know, it’s hard to believe a purse in New York would be sitting unclaimed for any great length of time.
Frankie’s roommate Erica (Maika Monroe of It Follows) wants to take the money and chuck the purse [side note: I couldn’t help wonder, if Greta does this often, how many purses with money are even returned from a New York subway and how much money does she lose doing this with actual money inside? And how does she get multiple drivers licenses?]. Anyway, Frankie would rather take a subway a great distance to return it, instead of calling and having her come up to the house. Since Frankie just lost her mom, she feels a bit sorry for the older woman who is a widow, with a daughter that’s away in France. They also make polite small talk, and she agrees to help her look for a dog.
I dug hearing Huppert play Liszt’s maudlin “Liebestraum” (hey…did she learn that in The Piano Teacher?). The rest of the score (by Javier Navarrete) tried too hard to make us conjure up emotions and scares.
As the women are talking, we hear loud noises and pounding on the wall. Frankie looks shocked, as Greta says, “Those damn neighbors.”
Strange, I immediately thought someone was trapped in the wall or another room. Anyone want to wager a guess whether I was right?
When Frankie goes over to Greta’s for dinner, her roommate is against this. It’s one of those cliche things that happens in movies. The friend or roommate, trying to talk you out of something like that. In real life, your friend would say, “Cool. Have fun.”
At this dinner, things are going well until Frankie, in search of a candle, finds a bunch of purses in a cabinet. Each of them has a post-it note with the name and phone number of the person that returned it. Now, this lead me to two questions. The first is…why did Greta keep the names on said purses? Couldn’t she just put that info into a phone book? And if you’re somebody that is a stalker/serial killer, that is so good at doing this multiple times…why are you sloppy on that aspect of it? Do you really let a person wander around your house “looking for candles”?
Another pet peeve of mine in movies like this…she soon after tells Greta she found the other purses. It seems to make a lot more sense to just bow out of the “friendship” without giving reasons. Or perhaps do that technique we all employ when there’s a friendship that’s kind of run its course. Just slowly start tapering the amount of phone calls and texts, and hope they get the point after awhile. It’s one of many reasons we loved how things went south in Fatal Attraction. Michael Douglas tried to tell Glenn Close nicely, that he was going to be busy (i.e., his wife would be returning from a trip), and he wouldn’t be able to see her much in the future. When she got snotty, he got snotty back. Things got bad after that, but…we don’t fault him for what he said. It made sense in the context of how it was all going and you don’t expect someone to then start stalking you.
When the commercials showed scenes of Greta showing up at the restaurant Frankie works at, it had a cool Brian De Palma vibe. Yet even those scenes Jordan screws up royally. For example, we see Greta lose her mind and start screaming, after toppling over a table with dishes going everywhere. It would’ve been much more interesting if she just kept slowly bugging Frankie with the order. Get one appetizer and complain about it. Get a glass of wine, and spit it out and ask for another. Drop a fork, and ask that more silverware be brought over. Just having her go nuts, isn’t nearly as interesting as a smart person toying with its prey.
These types of movies can be fun. My friends all loved Single White Female. I didn’t think it was very good, but I was entertained enough watching Bridget Fonda being tortured by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
My friends all liked Pacific Heights, and that was okay. It was enough fun watching Michael Keaton as a crazy tenant, terrorizing landlord Matthew Modine.
These movies can be derivative and still work, but they have to be good. In fact, I thought about the much better Notes on a Scandal (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Cate Blanchett). That got four Oscar nominations, but that’s going to be rare for a film dealing with stalker types. Nobody is asking for an Oscar winner here, but at least give us something better than this garbage.
Another problem I had with this movie is almost every scene I was watching, I thought of ways to make better. Perhaps if I were a filmmaker that would make sense. Being a person with a pen and notepad…I should not.
The story is forced, convoluted, and predictable. Other than Moretz’ performance, and the cell phone stuff being done well…it has nothing to offer. In fact, it was so disappointing, I left when it had 25 minutes to go. I didn’t even care to see how it ended [I did ask a critic later, and he told me it actually got worse].
1 star out of 5.