I’ll stick with taking the A train. Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) has lost everything. Her marriage, home, and career are all gone as a result of her drinking problem. Her former husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has moved in the woman he cheated on Rachel with, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and they have a newborn. The only enjoyment she gets out of life these days is when she’s riding on the train, drawing pictures and visualizing a perfect life through voyeuristic eyes of a married couple, Meghan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). Coincidentally, they live right down the street from Tom and Anna.
That perfect dream life dissolves when Rachel sees something that suggests infidelity. She takes it upon herself to inform Scott, who has his reservations about taking a stranger’s word for fact, but acknowledging that a psychiatrist his wife has been seeing could be the other man. The matter of possible infidelity becomes even more serious when Meghan goes missing, with nary a lead—except for Rachel waking up with gashes and a noticeable amount of blood. Surveillance and witness account put Rachel in the neighborhood hours before Meghan was last seen. And so questions are raised: Did Rachel actually see infidelity occur? More importantly, could she, in a drunken stupor, have more to do with this disappearance then she believes?
Yours truly had an awfully tough time writing the opening summary to The Girl on the Train, the silver screen adaptation to one of 2015’s most popular novels. And I don’t believe I did a good job in doing so. Some books are simply difficult to carry over into big screen success, and I believe that is where most of the problems of The Girl on the Train arise from.
Let me explain. The great thing about novels is the fact that chapters, entire sections, etc., can be chunked out, separated, and given the requisite time needed to learn and know the characters, the background, the relative timeline, and how each person fits into the proceedings. This can be done in movies as well, but the trouble is that so much of the novel’s information has to be condensed to fit time, and in the case of The Girl on the Train, it feels like there’s a lot of information that isn’t delivered in a way that makes narrative sense.
From the first line of spoken dialogue, director Tate Taylor’s (The Help, Get on Up) feature just seems a little off, getting extending openings for each lead female character without, aside from maybe Rachel, really understanding them. The pace truly does meander for the first half, whether moving straightforward in its storytelling, or backwards and then forwards. As a whole, the execution in storytelling is lacking, with flashbacks being used generously but without focus. It is difficult to ascertain when they end and when events are unfolding in current time. Even the visual style and technical aspects come off as a little cheap and something one could see on Lifetime, despite the starpower attached and the fairly sizable budget.
The story does find its groove somewhat in the 3rd act (as flashbacks become minimized), but unfortunately, it is a little too late to care about the payoffs by that point. No favors are done either with a twist that is pretty obvious about halfway through with a certain line of dialogue, which is saying something because I’m usually terrible with predicting those types of things. Overall, The Girl on the Train is very cold, darn near impossible to get invested into any one character.
The character that comes closest to evoking a emotional response is Rachel, played greatly by Emily Blunt. She’s been on the up and up for a while now, and roles in movies like Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario have proven her to be a scene-stealer capable of owning a feature. Her character is not the most well-written, and her arc is sort of rushed, but Blunt has a presence that is impossible to take eyes off of. As for everyone else, though there are no true bad performances, characterizations are so light (whore, womanizer, devoted mother, hard-nosed cop) that those in the roles have no real opportunity to do anything with them.
Seemingly destined to be the next great film based on a wildly popular adult novel, The Girl on the Train gets derailed with lackluster directing and a slow moving story that struggles to flow. All aboard the D train.
Photo credits go to collider.com and thefrisky.com.
Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson