The Girl on the Train is a Trainwreck
This is a story of three women: a depressed alcoholic named Rachel (Emily Blunt) who spends her days riding a train , a nanny who is struggling with something that keeps her up at night named Megan (Haley Bennett), and a paranoid mom who is married to Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) named Anna (Rachel Fergeson). Rachel becomes obsessed with Megan and spies on her whenever her train passes her house. But soon things turn upside down when Rachel sees Megan with a man that isn’t her husband Scott (Luke Evans) and she goes missing the next day… after Rachel got off to pursue her and blacked out from drinking. Everyone is a suspect in this twisted tale of love, abuse, and tragedy that spirals out of control.
I was really looking forward to seeing The Girl on the Train… which made it all the more sad when it turned out to be such a letdown. From what I can tell, it is incredibly faithful* to the book it was based on, which actually comes off as a hindrance in this case. A lot of Rachel’s scenes are plagued with irritating and unnecessary narration that could have easily been done through montages or flashbacks. I feel like I’ve been harping on this principle all year, but it’s an important one to film: show, don’t tell.
*When I was discussing this movie with a friend of mine who read the book it was based on, I learned that this wasn’t as faithful as I thought. I have no doubt that a lot of the scenes and dialogue are verbatim from the book, but apparently this story took place in London instead of New York and the psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic, (Édgar Ramírez) was supposed to play a much larger role. Also, the fact that they cast a Venezuelan actor to play a Middle Eastern doctor leads me to believe that there was a lot of unwanted studio interference.
What made the movie particularly hard to get through was that Rachel was so unlikable and unrelatable. She’s belligerent, irresponsible, a stalker, a drunk, and gets way too obsessed with a random person she sees on her way to and from work. I can’t relate to any of that and I don’t know many who can, but the movie doesn’t give us a good look into her character to make us understand how her mind works. So yeah, this movie wasn’t winning any points for having an unlikable lead…
...until I got to the final act of the movie and had a revelation: the movie wants you to hate Rachel and be suspicious of her so that the twist will hit you harder. I’m not going to give it away, but it’s a good one and it highlights a type of abuse that doesn’t get covered much in media. It’s just a pity that the dialogue and tone makes the whole thing feel more like a lame soap opera than an indictment of abuse.
Special credit has to go to the cinematographer because the shots in this movie look like works of art. It’s just a pity that it wasn’t able to save it from being a dreary and pretentious mess. It’s a shame this didn’t become the megahit fans were hoping it would be. Even though I didn’t read the book, I’ve come to expect some great adaptations from female authors after watching Gone Girl and Room. Clearly, lightning didn’t strike a third time.
So here’s a weird bit of irony: when playing Rachel, who had problems that stemmed from her being infertile, Emily Blunt was pregnant.