The Girl on the Train (Universal Pictures, R)

The Girl on the Train leaves you wondering what could have been accomplished with a better script.


I work at a library. Almost every shift I have had to pull The Girl on the Train off of the shelf for patrons eagerly awaiting the next mystery novel. Many have said that Girl on the Train is this year’s Gone Girl. One critic, before the screening I attended, took issue with the name. “She’s not a girl,” they said—a valid point but the least of this film’s problems.

While my interest in literature is rapidly burgeoning, my familiarity with Girl on the Train’s source material is very limited, other than what the cover and synopsis within the book’s jacket has told me. Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic. Every day she commutes to Manhattan to pretend she has a job she no longer has. On this commute, she passes by the house she once shared with her husband Tom (Justin Theroux). Tom is now married to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) who he has a child with. Next door, there lives a young couple, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett). These two houses represent the future that was unjustly stolen from Rachel, and the past that she longs for. One day, Megan Hipwell goes missing, and an affair that Rachel witnessed between Megan and her psychiatrist propels her into a mystery she may not be capable of escaping.

The premise is undoubtedly juicy, and the conceit of a missing person and the protagonist’s uncertain involvement is something that has definitely caught my attention before. While there may have been some flaws in Gone Girl, I was captivated nevertheless. With this film, I had trouble holding any sort of attention, even for a few minutes. The problem, I think, was in transcribing the content of the novel to film. Several times, flashbacks occur to establish the dynamics between the three women and the men in their lives. The most problematic are the psychiatrist sessions, which involve Megan dictating her woes and past traumas to doctor Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez). Because her words seem to have been copied directly from the novel, her monologues are spoken in obvious prose and, in a seemingly reality-set world, this comes across as rather unnatural. This is where the screenwriter should have made some sensible cuts, but it appears the draw of repeating author Paula Hawkins’ words was too strong.

On a more positive note, the performance of Blunt, who I normally find bland and unmentionable, is top notch in this film. In the role of an uncertain, alcoholic woman whose failures have come to dominate her worldview, Blunt delivers a realistic and truly moving performance. Additionally, Bennet gives an equally compelling performance as the missing person, her background and psychology thoroughly delved into. Other well-liked actors by me, such as Allison Janney and Theroux, make short but very charismatic marks on a film that would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill thriller. With a talented ensemble cast such as this, The Girl on the Train leaves you wondering what could have been accomplished with a better script. | Nic Champion


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