I enjoy a good train ride as much as anyone. Riding the rails, watching the world go by for an hour, perhaps more, taking in the comfort and the sights as much as you can until you reach your intended destination, it’s soothing. The Girl on the Train, adapted from Paula Hawkins’ acclaimed bestseller, is anything but soothing.
Image by Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment and DreamWorks SKG
The film follows three very troubled women. The first is Rachel, played by Emily Blunt, who spends her days spiraling deeper and deeper into a depressed and drunken stupor, reeling from the agony of her heartbreaking divorce from her ex-husband Tom, who is now married to the second pivotal lady of the plot Anna, who was at one time Tom’s mistress and now mother to his child but Anna cannot take care of the child alone, that’s why she has Megan, the third pivotal woman of the film, as a nanny.
On one Friday, Rachel sees Megan in the arms of a man who is not her husband and that evening, she confronts Megan in a drunken stupor and then, she blacks out. When she comes to, she awakens covered in blood, memory gone, Megan’s missing, the police are circling like vultures and she unwittingly throws herself in the case, trying to help Megan’s husband Scott, find her but only causes more trouble as time passes and Megan’s body is discovered.
Throughout this film, these characters are so tragically depressing and their baggage is so burdensome on audiences, it is difficult to find any shred of sympathy for any of them. The Girl on the Train will do its utmost to attract a crowd who happened to be fans of Hawkins’ novel, fans of suspense-mystery thrillers, and/or fans of Gone Girl, but alas, The Girl on the Train is a morbidly depressing tale about morbidly depressing human beings.
I’ve liked two of Tate Taylor’s previous films, The Help and Get on Up, but this was so far out of his wheelhouse, I couldn’t connect with this movie to find anything worth enjoying about it and I found the whole picture drudgingly unbearable because these women characters are just so difficult to sympathize with, especially once the connection between them is revealed through Tom and I was left asking why they would allow themselves to be bent and manipulated by such a small and insignificant man like this?
Even though I didn’t particularly resonate with any of these characters, I can say that I liked some of the performances. Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett were the standouts, from what I can recall and the supporting performances of Allison Janney, Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon and Justin Theroux were alright, to put it mildly.
Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay? It’s difficult to evaluate it because I didn’t read the novel but I can say that while the story is aching and jarring, it failed to leave any type of impression on me. The plot for The Girl on the Train, pales in comparison to the shock and awe of a thriller such as Gone Girl although I could definitely feel that it wanted to strike the same chords as that of a Hitchcockian work.
In fact there were times in the movie, I found myself asking “why?” Like when Anna found Meg’s cell-phone in a drawer, where Tom keeps anything electrical or computer-based and she goes outside and after a few minutes, she throws it in the marshes behind her house; why would you do something that stupid?
I could say that this movie could be a means to reference many of Hitchcock’s most iconic tropes, like the use of voyeurism where Rachel is peering into the windows and houses of the neighborhood she used to live in and imagining what their lives are like, ala Rear Window, the train as an instrument of no escape or claustrophobia, from North by Northwest, Megan having such influence over practically all of the characters though she is absent/dead throughout the picture, like Rebecca, Tom being a duplicitous, murderous fiend, like Norman Bates was in Psycho.
The cinematography of Charlotte Bruus Christensen aimed to be a striking experience but the effects rendered everything visual to be rather dull, the editing of Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker didn’t help matters either, Danny Elfman’s score went in one ear and out the other, Kevin Thompson’s production design, Deborah Jensen’s art direction, Susan Bode-Tyson’s costumes, everything technical about this movie left no impression upon me at all.
Going in, maybe in the back of my mind I wanted this to be the next Gone Girl, even though I knew that would be practically impossible but I didn’t expect The Girl on the Train to be so boring an ordinary train ride would be more exciting than that. Oh well.