Every film has its weaker and stronger aspects. This is certainly the story of The Girl on the Train. Many have been waiting anxiously for the film as it is based on the best-selling thriller by author Paula Hawkins. Loads have read the page turner and now want to see how director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) would handle the transfer from page to big screen.
Troubled emotionally, unemployed and alcoholic. That is not a great combination, but that is Rachel (Emily Blunt – The Devil Wears Prada, Sicario). Her life is an utter mess. Even worse than that it is sad. There is nothing to it. She herself even ponders on one of her many train trips to nowhere when the last time she had meaningful contact with another human being was. After being fired from her public relations job in New York due to her drinking, Rachel has continued the charade of taking the Metro North train into town each day. Where she spends the day drawing, crying and drinking.
The train becomes an important element of her life as it allows her to see the life she had and wants again through its windows. She actually passes by the house she used to live in with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux – from television’s The Leftovers), who has married the woman (Rebecca Ferguson – Florence Foster Jenkins, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) he was having an affair with, as well as a house a few doors over in which a husband (Luke Evans – Fast & Furious 6, Dracula Untold) and wife live in who seem to be the perfect couple. It is that couple that Rachel is obsessed with. She lives to see them interacting for the few moments when the train slows down right behind it.
Perfection is ruined when she spies the young woman in an embrace with a man who is not her husband. Just this sends Rachel into a rage. A rage that leads to a day and evening of excessive drinking. In a drunken stupor Rachel decides to take the train to the couple’s house and confront the young woman about her affair.
Who knows what happened next. Certainly not Rachel. She wakes up full of blood from a wound on her head and bruises, but without a clue about how she got this way. Things become more complex when shortly afterwards the young woman, whose name is Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett – The Magnificent Seven – 2016, Marley & Me), has disappeared. Now it is imperative for Rachel to figure out what happened that night.
As for the pluses and minuses of the film the biggest plus is Emily Blunt. This is the actress as we have never seen her before. She has never done this type of role and while some might be put off by it others will see that her talent and range seem limitless. Several scenes (especially one in a bathroom after she has seen Megan with another man) are astounding. Complex is the name of the game with this role plus the fact that she has to realistically bring to screen an alcoholic (we’ve all seen trainwreck portrayals of drunks), who is rather sad and pathetic yet make her someone you want to cheer for. The only times she is hampered with this tricky role is when she is given some rather awkward dialogue.
Awkward dialogue crops up often, especially early on, in The Girl on the Train. As a result, sometimes in scenes that were not meant to be funny the audience broke out into laughter. It took away some of the tension inherent in the story. Director Tate Taylor is somewhat to blame for the unevenness of the tempo of the film. It really is a slow builder and not in a good way. It is almost as if he was uncertain of which direction to bring things in the beginning. Due to his hesitation the story gets tangled rather than thrilling the viewer with twists. Taylor will have to work a little bit more in the genre to gThough there is a positive side to his work as he took a rather darker approach to the story and that was brought forward in the darkness of his shots and his extreme close-ups on Blunt’s face and eyes.
Finally, Justin Theroux and Rebecca Ferguson are not given much to work with. None of the characters are given much of a back story, but these two ones suffer most egregiously. Anna just becomes wallpaper and Tom a laughable and boring caricature.