Review: The Girl on the Train
Full disclaimer – we did not like Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train. The best-selling book that “shocked the world” bored us, to be honest. Within the first few pages we predicted who the killer in the Hitchcockian wannabe, noir whodunit was, and hypothesized the true twist was that the lead unreliable narrator, Rachel, was drunkenly imagining each of the other female-led narratives in the book. Spoiler: the twist wasn’t nearly that inventive or subversive.
Many eager to compare it to that other “sexy thriller” where gender norms and gender normative roles are dissected in an otherwise paint by numbers, girl gone missing story (yes, Gone Girl), found the comparison completely unfounded. While both books have come under attack for being equally misogynistic and anti-feminist, the comparisons end there. That being said, both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train film adaptations have one thing in common-they’re both far superior than their source novels.
The film version of The Girl on the Train moves the action from London to Manhattan, yet chooses to keep its lead, Rachel (played brilliantly by Emily Blunt), as British, a commentary on her being even more of an interloper in her own world. She travels every day on the train along the picturesque Hudson line, coddling herself with an adult sippy cup filled to the brim with vodka, unable to tear herself away from the window as she passes her former picture perfect home that she once shared with her former husband Tom (The Leftovers‘ Justin Theroux). He currently resides there with his current wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation‘s femme fatale appearing here in a cheap blonde wig), the realtor he cheated on Rachel with while they were afflicted with infertility in their marriage. Two doors away lives another seemingly perfect couple-Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett, this year’s It girl doing her best Jennifer Lawrence impression). One morning on the train the blotchy faced, bleary eyed Rachel voyeuristically witnesses Megan kissing a man who is very much not her husband, on the same day that Megan vanishes, in fact, and she imprudently injects herself into the investigation.
What begins as a fascinating dissection of the dangers of exploring the violent undercurrent of what lies beneath the lives of the rich, young and beautiful, (especially relevant now as the abuses conducted by Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt have come to light), quickly devolves into a slightly campy, Lifetime movie of the week. Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Men, Women & Children) does little to delve into the baby-crazy mentality of the Stepford wives on screen and director Tate Taylor (Get On Up, The Help) does little but allow star Emily Blunt to ground the film with a stunning tour de force performance.
The Girl on the Train isn’t a complete trainwreck but it goes off the rails quite rapidly.