The Girl on the Train Review
It’s a bumpy ride for the girl on the train
What Rachel sees out of her train carriage window will send her down a path from which there’s no turning back.Rachel Watson gets the train to and from Manhattan everyday. On her journey the train always stops in the same place, over-looking the back gardens of the houses on Beckett Street. Specifically the house she once lived in and the house belonging to a young couple a few doors down. Every morning from the window of her train carriage Rachel (Emily Blunt) sees a woman on her balcony and as a result of her frequent train journeys she has begun to envision the seemingly perfect life she leads; what she does for a living, what her relationship and husband are like and how she spends her time. This perfect make believe life is contrasted with the life she herself once lived: a happily married woman in her dream home with her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and a good job.That life is now a distant memory but one that she punishes herself with every time the train passes her old house where her ex-husband still lives but with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby daughter. When the woman from the balcony, Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), goes missing one Friday evening Rachel believes that she may hold vital information as to her whereabouts, but alcohol fuelled blackouts are causing her memories to be fuzzy and blurred. All she knows is that she woke up on Saturday with a head injury and only flashes of vague memories of which she can’t make any sense. Things are about to get a lot more complicated and it's going to be a very bumpy ride for The Girl on the Train.
The film is directed by Tate Taylor from a screenplay written by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) and adapted from the best-selling mystery thriller novel by Paula Hawkins. The book is written in chapters split between the three main female protagonists Rachel, Megan and Anna and over different places in time. Taylor has managed to effectively recreate this on screen as he flits between the three women using title screens to signify the change in time and character. The book is a close study of the consciousness on each of the somewhat unreliable characters, giving insight into their train of thought (no pun intended) and mindset. Obviously for a film this can be difficult to translate into images and for the most part I felt this did show.
It’s only really with Rachel that any true insight is portrayed and Blunt delivers her character remarkably well. Shedding much of her glamour and natural beauty, Blunt is frumpy, blotchy and puffy around the eyes with the look of yesterday's makeup smudged around the edges. Blunt’s portrayal of a woman suffering not only the effects of alcoholism but also the emotional breakdown of a marriage, and her life really, are what makes this film work. Taylor’s predominant use of close up shots and voice overs when dealing with the characters is perfect for this film and reinforces the idea that we as an audience are within the mind of the person on screen. The whole look of the film is slightly muted with an evocative and subtle musical score from Danny Elfman, that doesn’t overpower but actually works to emphasise what’s happening on screen, and this all aids in bringing the essence at the core of the book to life.
A good attempt at adapting the best-selling novel but one that seems to have bitten off more than it can chew
Having read the book I personally felt that each character was cast perfectly in their roles. As mentioned, Blunt is really the show stopper of this film; she’s emotional and convincingly delivers the role of alcoholic Rachel with seemingly little effort and a lot of conviction. Theroux is exactly what you would imagine for Tom, tall dark and handsome with a powerful look about him. Bennett and Ferguson, despite looking similar, play contrasting characters; the latter content with her home and family and the former desperate for something more. Allison Janney plays Detective Riley who is investigating the disappearance of Megan and plays her with the cold hearted unforgiving bluntness you would expect her to have from reading the book.
It’s not essential to have read the book and to be quite honest I’d rather wished I hadn’t read it. A lot of the small details were missing which I understand is necessary when adapting a book for the screen but it’s in those small details that you really get a feel for the characters. Gaps were filled in through conversations and flash backs but I personally found that it didn’t create the same effect. And there were several points within the film that were drawn out and honestly felt quite boring. For a thriller it wasn’t entirely thrilling and despite all the twists and turns it felt as though they were almost an after-thought. All the right elements are there but for me they just didn’t quite come together to work as a cohesive unit. It’s a reasonably entertaining watch but one that promises more than it can actually deliver.
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