Tuesday, October 11, 2016


The erotic thriller has been a genre in film which has seen immense popularity over the years. Start with a troubled couple, add in a love triangle and a whodunit mystery with a twist or two…and we’ve got the makings for good drama and suspense. The genre has unfortunately become a little predictable recently, and Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train  seeks to distance itself from the same-old same-old by changing the first-person narrative between three characters. An interesting approach, and a challenge for director Tate Taylor and his screen adaptation of the novel.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a depressed alcoholic prone to blackouts who only finds happiness in watching Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans) from afar every day from her seat on a commuter train at a stop. Rachel witnesses what she believes to be infidelity, and Megan later vanishes…which has Rachel wondering if she and her blackouts were involved.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN tries to set itself up as a study to how people react when faced with great loss. Rachel, having messed up her life due to her drinking and (slight spoiler…alleged blackouts), and finding ways to cope with that loss. Seeing Rachel trying to find happiness through others is interesting and makes for a solid start, but the film dives into a convoluted maze of plot. Megan winds up being the former nanny of her neighbors, who happens to be Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson)…and those neighbors just happen to live two doors away, which gives Rachel plenty to look at every time the train comes to that stop. On top of that, Megan may or may not be having an affair with her shrink Dr. Abdic (Edgar Ramirez)…whom Rachel winds up visiting to try and fill in her blackouts.

The thickness of plot (and lame contrivances) can be forgivable, but the film jumps all over the timeline in its telling. First we’re in the present, then back to months ago, then back to the present, and back to four days prior, and then back to years before. It’s a lot to take in, and even the fonts that come up to help us keep track wind up being annoying. The film is also a grind with deadly pacing, and each character is portrayed as a miserable shitbag whom no one would want to spend time with…never mind root for. Perhaps that is a fault of the source material, or maybe the screenwriters couldn’t find a way to trim the fat, but THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN winds up being a messy bore. The early goings focus on the three women and their first-person narration, which (again), is a nice start but eventually that goes out the window for a traditional narrative which makes for a choppy and inconsistent style. Director Tate Taylor also doesn’t do anything great behind the camera, but in the editing he does find room for Danny Elfman’s score to shine.

But there is one thing to love in this film, and that is the outstanding performance by Emily Blunt. Blunt puts us through every emotion in the book, and her drunken scenes of loneliness and despair have to be seen to be believed. Blunt sells the character with a single look, and her ability to turn her attractive features into a drawn and droopy sad person is amazing. Truly, this is her finest performance to date. The rest of the cast handles their assignments well. Allison Janney shows up as a detective looking for the missing Megan, but the role is so small that her talent seems wasted.

The identity of the person responsible for making Megan vanish comes by way of a few well-intentioned twists and turns, but once it’s revealed…there’s a “that’s it?” type of feeling. The film wants to be a clever whodunit but doesn’t have the shock value at the end, and one can’t help but to feel that things would have worked better without all the plot and just focused on the character and her issues. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN isn’t a total derailment thanks to the performance of Emily Blunt, but doesn’t get us to the station on time either.


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