The Girl on the Train – Film Review by Pat V.
Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Paula Hawkins (based on the novel by)
Stars: Haley Bennett, Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux
The Girl on the Train was the publishing sensation of 2015, selling over 11 million copies worldwide. It’s a thriller where a divorced woman takes the train into the city every day, supposedly to go to work, though, in fact, she has lost her job. She is drinking heavily and becomes deeply disturbed as she passes the house where her ex-husband lives with his new wife and their young daughter, and that of their neighbours, who seem to be the perfect couple. She becomes fixated with this couple, who embody everything she desires, and when a murder takes place, it is not clear, even to herself, whether or not she is directly involved.
Director Tate Taylor (The Help) has moved the story from the suburbs of London to the leafy, prosperous outskirts of New York while keeping the central protagonist, Rachel (Emily Blunt), an Englishwoman, for no obvious reason. Blunt gives a complex and nuanced performance as the obsessive and tormented, spurned lover and her raddled, tear-streaked face is almost unrecognisable as glamorous star we are used to seeing on the red carpet. (There are a lot of tears in this film – if an Oscar were given for the film with most weeping, The Girl on the Train, would have to be a top contender.)
Paula Hawkins describes her book as a “domestic noir” though it is, in reality, a whodunnit. If you have already read the book, that is really the main problem with the film. Knowing who the culprit is, there is very little tension left for the viewer. There is no real psychological depth to the characters, none of whom is particularly likeable, and though the film is well shot and acting is competent, there remains little in the story to keep you engaged.
If you have not read the book, you would probably struggle to follow the action as laid out in the movie. Told from the point of view of three different women and jumping backwards and forwards in time, it is hard to make out, in some scenes, exactly what is going on.
Emily Blunt will doubtlessly receive much acclaim for her performance and it is well deserved. Apart from a few brief scenes in which Allison Janney (CJ in The West Wing) as the investigator, Officer Riley, steals the show, Blunt’s is the only truly rounded performance. She conveys the fragility behind the unpleasant and difficult exterior of her character and, almost in spite of ourselves, we care what happens to her.
Riding on the fame of the novel and the huge build up to its release, The Girl on the Train is almost certainly guaranteed success. It is not a bad film but does not deserve all the hype that surrounds it. With, for the most part, passable performances and a slight, if convoluted, storyline, it is watchable but certainly not memorable.
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