Main cast: Emily Blunt (Rachel Watson), Haley Bennett (Megan Hipwell), Rebecca Ferguson (Anna Watson), Justin Theroux (Tom Watson), Luke Evans (Scott Hipwell), Allison Janney (Det Sgt Riley), and Édgar Ramírez (Dr Kamal Abdic)
Director: Tate Taylor
The Girl on the Train is pretty faithful to the book of the same name by Paula Hawkins, so sorry, if you have read that book, or read the whole synopsis on its Wikipedia page, you’ve already spoiled yourself where the movie is concerned. This movie also demonstrates that what could have worked very well in book format does not always translate well to the screen.
Meet Rachel Watson. Calling her a hot mess is an understatement because she chugs down alcohol like it’s water. Every day, she takes a train to New York, and along the journey, she would gaze at her old house. The house is currently her ex-husband Tom’s, which he shares with his new wife Anna and their baby. Rachel’s marriage to Tom dissolved because of her inability to conceive and her subsequent alcoholic binges, so the fact that Tom is happy and is a new father to boot eats away at her. She also keeps calling Tom obsessively, much to Anna’s increasing annoyance.
Rachel also spots a couple that lives a few houses down from Tom and Anna. The couple seems like a loving and happy one, and she ends up weaving her own fantasies of happily ever after around that couple. Hence, she loses it when she spots that woman, Megan, apparently kissing another man on the balcony of her home. She experiences a particularly bad blackout, and when she comes to the morning after, she is injured and dirty, and she also learns that Megan is missing. Megan, it turns out, is the nanny hired by Tom and Anna, and Rachel has this chilling suspicion that it was she who tried to confront Rachel on that evening before she blacked out. Did she…?
As she tries to bungle her way into the case, she starts presenting herself as Megan’s good friend to Megan’s husband Scott, in order to tell Scott of Megan’s unfaithfulness while going all creepy-lustful over that man at the same time. She also presents herself to the psychiatrist Megan was seeing before she vanished, Dr Kamal Abdic. Being the drunken loony that she is, can Rachel get to the bottom of this, or will she just make a bigger mess out of her life and end up in the loony bin?
The movie is certainly well-acted, with Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett doing a pretty good job in making their characters complex, intriguing, and fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, director Tate Taylor soon becomes a bit one-note in that, every time the whim strikes him (and it strikes him very often), the camera will do a close up on Ms Blunt’s face. While she is a talented actress with a beautifully expressive face, Ms Blunt can only show that “Oh, look at me gazing at the camera in bleary-eyed confusion; I’m a drunk who knows to do that artfully tragic poise, woo-hoo!” thing before I get bored and start wishing for the movie to pull a different kind of shtick. Oh, and Édgar Ramírez is so pretty to look at.
However, the movie doesn’t know how to do that suspense thing well. The moment it reveals that twist about Megan about the midway point, the movie dies spectacularly. Really, it just dies, because I quickly and correctly deduce the whole set-up and the identity of the villain, and the rest of the movie is just a waiting game for Rachel to catch up with me. Oh, and the way the movie portrays Rachel’s remembering of the events on that fateful evening when Megan vanished, it’s like she is experiencing some kind of magical mind trip where visions just flood her brain like it’s a science-fiction movie. The whole thing is quite hilarious in an unintentional way. And I suspect people who may need a while longer to deduce the identity of the villain would be clued in by the way the actor plays that character – there is something very obviously off with this character, so it’s not very surprising when this character turns out to be the big bad.
It’s also odd how the movie starts out with a narrative device that allows Rachel, Anna, and Megan to each get their point of view, only to do that inconsistently as the movie progresses, before simply abandoning it altogether for a more conventional “Rachel’s point of view, 24/7” device later on. There is something about the script, credited to Erin Cressida Wilson, that feels uneven and even disjointed at places, as if it had been cobbled hastily in the last minute by several script doctors that didn’t have time to check whether there is a semblance of continuity in the way the movie unfurls.
At the end of the day, The Girl on the Train is a fairly standard and even mundane thriller suspense-thingy wrapped up in a narrative style to pass it off as something more sophisticated than it actually is. Still, the acting is generally above average, even if the movie relies a bit too much on close-ups of Emily Blunt’s singular facial expression. On the whole, this one isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible either. It’s just okay.