Isabelle Huppert’s table-flip heard ‘round the world
In which I find a kindred spirit in Greta, praise Shamari for letting it all out, and have my faith in young people restored by the new Evan Hansen.
|Louis Peitzman||Mar 5, 2019|| 7|
Why was I the only person in my theater laughing at Greta? Like, truly, is everyone else OK? It doesn’t really matter, of course. I’m comfortable going to movies by myself, and I’m also comfortable being the only one laughing out loud when Chloë Grace Moretz discusses wine pairings with her deranged stalker, Isabelle Huppert. (She had to serve her, OK? Isabelle Huppert had a reservation.) Audiences have a hard time with genre-bending, and Greta is both a psychological horror film and a campy dark comedy — oh, look, a movie just for me! — so I understand why most people in the theater didn’t know how to react. But uh, it’s really fucking funny, and the muted response was actually kind of a bummer. This is why I’m an advocate for queer-only screenings of movies, or at least movies starring Isabelle Huppert. Jeff Hiller has a small role as “Maitre D’ Henri” — this is not a film for straight people!
Is Greta a bad movie? Let’s just say it’s a film that requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. Two millennial women have a landline in their apartment, cell service works on a moving subway train, a cookie cutter is able to fully sever a finger, and someone chooses not to be best friends with Isabelle Huppert. Huppert plays the titular Greta, a woman who is lonely to the point of psychosis. (Relatable!) Her mark is sweet, innocent Frances (Moretz), who we’re repeatedly reminded is too naive for the big bad city. (She’s from a small town known as… Boston.) Frances is initially all too willing to let Greta mother her — Frances lost her mom a year ago, and that’s pretty much her defining personality trait — but once she realizes Greta has a habit of luring in young women, Frances cuts her off. Greta… does not take it well.
There are moments of real suspense here, but for the most part, Greta is just a good time. If anything I was hoping the movie would go further. It’s surprisingly restrained — cookie cutter mutilation aside — and we hardly get to see Huppert really lose her shit. There’s one great scene in which she flips a table (Teresa Giudice is shaking), but mostly she keeps her cool. The fact that Greta is still terrifying is a testament to Huppert’s screen presence. The first movie I remember seeing her in was The Piano Teacher, a (much better) film about obsession, and I’ve been low-key scared of her ever since. On the other hand, can you imagine being terrorized by Isabelle Huppert? That is an honor. If Isabelle Huppert locks you in a box with stuffed animals, you count your goddamn blessings.
Greta was my first AMC Stubs A-List movie, and I’m excited to make the most out of my new membership (and my unemployment). But I’d forgotten how many trailers they show before movies! Feels like a waste of time — just assume we’ve all seen this shit on Twitter already. They showed the trailer for the new Pet Sematary and I got irritated all over again. As a (self-proclaimed) Stephen King movie expert, I really want this movie to be good, but swapping out Gage for Ellie as the kid who comes back from the dead is borderline unforgivable. I’m also not thrilled that the trailer gives away the Achilles tendon-slashing moment and Zelda crawling down the hallway. And why isn’t John Lithgow doing a hokey Maine accent? I ask for so little. (I’m still going to see it, obviously. I’m just lowering my expectations and praying it doesn’t limbo under them.)
Lowering my expectations might explain why I’ve somewhat come around on The Real Housewives of Atlanta this season. It’s nowhere near the heights the series has reached in past seasons, but then how do you compete with the unbridled majesty of Season 9? (The four-part reunion alone is a staggering achievement. It is operatic. It should be taught in schools.) It’s easy to say that getting rid of Kenya and Shereé was a mistake, because yes, their absence has been keenly felt all season. At the same time, I’m not sure how much better this season would be if they were still around. Both had sort of run out of storyline and hitched their wagons to the wrong supporting players: Kenya to a husband who didn’t want to film or live in Atlanta, and Shereé to Kim “I don’t see color” Zolciak. As much as I miss them, I can’t really argue with Bravo’s choice to part ways.
But there’s no denying that something is off this season — or rather, several somethings. I’d argue that the biggest problem is NeNe, and I feel awful saying that because it’s really not her fault. Before she left back in Season 7, she was so clearly over filming that it dragged the whole show down. But since her departure from the Ryan Murphy Multiverse, she’s been more engaged — you have to work for that peach! — and an essential ingredient to the show’s success. The problem is that this season, she is going through it and it’s really just uncomfortable to watch. I say this with compassion: NeNe needs a break from RHOA. The big fight they’ve been teasing all season — the one where NeNe goes LeeAnne Locken on a cameraman — was edited to look like it was NeNe vs. Marlo. In reality it was NeNe vs. … people going into her closet, I guess? Much like Taylor Armstrong in the dark days of RHOBH Season 2, it’s very obvious that there’s something deeper and more painful going on here. Give NeNe the break she deserves.
That having been said, the most recent episode was a high point for the season, because Shamari (a newbie who had not left much of an impression up to now) got Naked Wasted and threw up on Eva, who then came close to sympathy vomiting in the sink. Listen, I am not big on gross-out humor, but there’s something about Housewife-on-Housewife vomit that really did it for me. Maybe it was NeNe’s scream of abject terror when Eva said it got between her toes. Maybe it was the part-horrified, part-impressed “What did she eat?” But it worked for me. You know what else worked for me? Shamari showing up with two uninvited friends — I live for a glaring faux pas from a first-season Housewife — and later bringing the show’s sapphic subtext to the surface. Shamari can stay.
Now that I’m back in New York, I was excited to share my thoughts on all the theater I’m seeing — but my first show is tonight, so you’ll have to wait until my next post. For now, I would like to say how thoroughly delighted I am by Andrew Barth Feldman’s campaign to revive Smash. To anyone not in the know, Andrew is the newest star of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, and also a literal teenager. And Smash was a short-lived musical drama on NBC, but honestly if you don’t know every word to “They Just Keep Moving the Line,” this might not be the newsletter for you. (I kid! You can stay. Just do your homework, like listening to every episode of the Smash-centric podcast I co-hosted with Matt Piwowarczyk.)
This is hard for me to admit, but sometimes I worry that Smash will just fade away. There is only so much that I (and Gay Twitter) can do to keep the memory alive, especially when we’re talking about a show that was a fever dream to begin with. So imagine my surprise and delight when Andrew Barth Feldman — a legitimate young person! — started tweeting about Smash with genuine fervor. The only person tweeting about Smash more than Andrew at this point is Kat McPhee, who is less a person and more a concept created in a lab to make gay boys forget that they were always Team Ivy. Do I think Andrew’s enthusiasm will lead to a true Smash resurgence? Not really. But we are talking about Smash again, and that’s a good thing. Please listen to my podcast.
Truth be told, I’m mixed on the idea of a third season of Smash. My body’s saying let’s go, but my heart is… well, slightly more iffy. How do you recapture the magic of a show that was both a complete disaster and the best thing that ever happened to me? It’s not that Smash wasn’t, on occasion, actually great. It’s more that the reason I fell in love with the series was the way it repeatedly collapsed under its own weight. Much like a Marie Kondo meme, I love mess. I adored Smash’s ambition, its unintentional comedy, and its persistent rejection of logic. You can’t force camp, and I fear a Smash revival would try too hard to embrace the batshit instead of stumbling on it accidentally. That, or it would double down on sincerity, and I couldn’t handle that either. I’m not fully opposed! I’m just being cautious. In the meantime, can we get Bombshell on Broadway before the rapidly approaching End Times? Thanks in advance.