Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’ Leaves the Station Then Derails Along the Way
We first meet the characters of The Girl on the Train through the eyes of Rachel (Emily Blunt) as she longingly looks through the window of a Metro North train as it passes by homes along its route. She tells us in voice-over about the perfect lives she imagines living in those homes, voyeuristically peeking into the private scenes of a woman with her lover, a family with their baby. It’s a meditative feeling as the train quietly shushes by the bucolic neighborhood. Then the camera moves onto Rachel and we notice there is something not quite right about this woman with swollen red eyes and cracked lips. There is a murder mystery around her that’s about to unfold.
One by one we meet the other women that Rachel has been watching from the train’s window. There’s Megan (Haley Bennett) at her shrink’s office telling him that her marriage is unraveling and the only thing that keeps her sane is running. Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is her exhausted next door neighbor who desperately needs child care for her baby. Their seemingly separate worlds are about to intersect. Addiction is at the heart of this winding thriller based on the wildly popular best-seller by British author Paula Hawkins which debuted at number one on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list of 2015. Rachel is an alcoholic who drinks vodka out of a water bottle and is prone to black-outs and rages when she’s drunk. Blunt gives a real and raw performance in the physically unflattering portrayal which even she admitted was not glamorous. At a press conference in New York for the film she described how the make-up made it easier. “My make-up artist really studied alcoholics and pulled up various mug shots of people who’d been arrested for drunk driving; celebrities as well,” said Blunt. “So she was very specific about the rosacea. We had a full contact lens that covered my whole eye for the really drunk stuff to get the bloodshot glassiness. The lips were her idea and she’d put it on and I’d just feel my lips crack and it chapped them up. It felt so awful.” Megan’s addiction is sex. Having multiple affairs while also satisfying her husband at home, Bennett got underneath her skin in such a way where you felt sorry for her while at the same time abhorred her behavior. Bennett told reporters, “The reality of my character Megan, I would literally go home and scrub my skin basically raw. It was the physical act of shedding her.” We discover all three women have someone in common, Tom, played with cool assuredness by Justin Theroux, the ex-husband of Rachel who makes a happy new family with Anna. He is an actor to watch not only for being married to Jennifer Aniston, but for his deftness at playing comedy and drama. Rounding out the cast are Laura Prepon fresh from Orange Is the New Black as Rachel’s best friend who has the best lines in the film. As the voice of reason for Rachel’s downward spiral she delivers such zingers as, “Facebook stalkers and drunk ex-wives do not make good friends,” and “Booze breaks the relationship.” There’s also Allison Janney, whose talents are wasted as a no-nonsense detective on the case and pops up from time to time. Director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) had a hard task of bringing this much-hyped tale to the screen. Unfortunately he was off track with a few unbelievable moments that received chuckles from the audience. Sometimes books are just better left to the imagination. Aside from the skilled performances from Blunt, Bennett, and Theroux, the last half hour spent solving this whodunit derails.
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