Warning: This post contains spoilers for the movie Greta.
Greta, out March 1, is a movie best watched with a group of loud, cackling friends. After stumbling out of the screening room, I called a friend and recounted the entire plot on my walk to the subway: "And then Isabelle Huppert stood outside a restaurant and looked menacing, and then there was a table flip that rivaled Teresa Giudice's in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and then..."
All of these moments culminate in the suspense movie's prolonged, sweaty ending sequence, most of which takes place in the hidden corners of Greta's (Isabelle Huppert) home. How did Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) end up locked in the secret room of a madwoman’s enchanted gingerbread home, nestled amid the apartments of Brooklyn? It's a good question.
Frances, you see, has fatal flaw of being new to New York. A recent transplant to the city, she has yet to accrue the protective residue required of characters who live in the New York of TV and film. Frances is bewitched by the various sparkly spaces she orbits — the Tribeca loft she shares with her wealthy friend, Erica (a fantastic Maika Monroe); the high-end restaurant where she waitresses. In Greta, even the subways are well-lit.
The small town girl makes the mistake of thinking this city is charmed, is safe. So, when she finds a stranger’s bag on the subway, she returns it in person, instead of doing the rational thing: Dropping that bag off at the MTA booth and muttering “tourists.” Frances, boxy green purse in hand, leaves the island of Manhattan and ventures into the wilds of Brooklyn, where banshees like Greta are able to roam free (in Greta, it appears as if the NYPD has no jurisdiction in Brooklyn).
Immediately, our doe-eyed maiden is entranced by Greta's ambiguous accent and sob story about being alone in the world. Her husband is dead; her daughter, studying piano in France. Frances, whose mother recently died, feels alone in the world, too. Perhaps that loneliness is why Frances ignores the strange knocking coming from the other side of the piano. Greta blames the neighbors' construction for the noise — but that excuse doesn't hold up, considering Greta lives in a standalone house.
Erica, a weathered New Yorker, is less charmed by Greta (and probably wouldn't have believed the "neighbor" excuse). Still, as if she were under a spell, Frances follows the gingerbread crumbs across the Brooklyn Bridge and into the witch's den, over and over.
Only after stumbling upon cold, undeniable evidence of Greta's deviousness does Frances finally believe Erica. While searching for candles to light their intimate dinner, Frances instead finds a cache of identical green bags with Post-It notes of women's names. Suddenly, the mechanics behind Greta and Frances' fast friendship become clear. Greta goes fishing for hapless young women in the New York subway system, and uses the bags as bait. Frances is flopping around on Greta's fishing line.
As the song goes, Frances can check out of Greta's house, but she can never leave. Greta sticks to Frances "like gum," stalking her throughout the city. The lead-up to the ending is arguably the movie's most delicious section. Greta, whose once prim expression has melted to reveal a face of unhinged obsession, is lurking outside the restaurant, in the elevator bank of the apartment, in the alley outside a bar.
Obviously, it's only a matter of time before Greta gets her hands on Frances again. But before Frances ends up in Greta's secret room, she gets some crucial information about her stalker. Greta is — gasp — not French! She's Hungarian, which the movie positions as a shocking reveal that may explain her character. Frances meets with Greta's daughter's ex-lover (Zawe Ashton) in a bustling Brooklyn coffee shop. Alexa explains that her girlfriend used to talk about being put in "the box." She always thought her girlfriend's childhood stories were metaphoric. But after she took her own life, Alexa began to wonder whether the stories were literal.
Spoiler: They were! Greta eventually makes her way to Frances' apartment, drugs her, and transports her to Brooklyn in a cab. Since Greta appears to be a kindly old woman, no one questions why she's dragging a girl's limp body into a car. Revealing a social media fluency surprising for her age, Greta uses Frances' phone to convince her father that she's on vacation with Erica, and convince Erica that she's with her dad. It takes both of Frances' protectors (and apparently the only people she knows) a long time to realize Frances is missing. By then, Frances has already been locked in "the box" — a children's toy trunk where Greta locks badly behaved girls — and begun taking sadistic piano lessons.
Early on in her captivity, Frances still has the energy to fight back. While baking Hungarian cookies, Frances lops off one of Greta's fingers with a cookie cutter. Since Greta is practically bionic, it doesn't thwart her. She can still be a jailer with missing fingers. Greta subdues Frances with a mixture of substances until she's completely depleted.
Greta and Adora of Sharp Objects could compare notes on medicine cocktails and nightgowns. In fact, the two characters are quite similar. Both desperately want to control young women's minds and bodies. They use a "maternal" facade to mask their dark, obsessive personalities. In their desire for companionship, they become jailers. And, to their credit, they have great wardrobes.
But there's hope for Frances: A private investigator, hired by Frances' dad, is on his way to save her. The investigator delves into Greta's past. After a stint in a mental institution, Greta was released and lost to the masses. Still, he somehow manages to track down her address and knocks on her door. He blunders his way through the interaction, leaving himself vulnerable to Greta. She kills him and throws him in the basement with the rest of the bodies, including the girl who was knocking on the door during Frances' first visit.
By the end of the movie, prospects are looking grim for Frances, who by this point is a collection of under-eye circles, sweat, and sadness. She looks like she's going to melt into the bed. We have no sense of how much time has passed – but we know her time is up. Greta's predatory cycle is starting up once again. On the other side of the secret room, Greta is courting her next victim.
This isn't one of Greta's typical victims, vulnerable to an older woman's kind eyes. This is a girl whose eyebrows are always raised in skepticism. This is our hero. It's Erica, Greta's roommate, who has been scouring the subway looking for a green bag with Greta's address. Erica slips roofies into Greta's tea, knocking her out. Then, Erica seamlessly rescues her friend. Together, they lock Greta in the box, sealing the trunk with a small Eiffel Tower figurine (she's locked in by her lies). That was easy!
Though we shouldn't celebrate just yet. Those roofies wore off quickly. Just as Frances and Erica exit the bedroom, Greta starts knocking on the top of the box. The Eiffel Tower makes for a wobbly lock. The ending of the movie intimates that Greta will, indeed, get out after a few more knocks – and she knows where Frances lives.
Does this leave the door open to a sequel? We hope so. For now, Greta holds a clear takeaway for audiences. Tell your friends where you're going, please. All of this could have been avoided by an address.