THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramírez, Laura Prepon, Lisa Kudrow
It’s the fall release that book lovers have been waiting for as the Paula Hawkins page-turner finally gets the big screen treatment. Rachel Watson (Blunt) takes the train into work every day. She passes the time by sketching and daydreaming about other people she sees along the way. Every day the train goes by a gorgeous house with a beautiful couple inside who always look deeply in love. The house happens to be just a few houses down from her old house that she shared with her ex-husband, Tom (Theroux). Tom is now remarried to Anna (Ferguson), and they have a young daughter together. It’s the life Rachel always wanted, but she’s now left with nothing. She takes a liking to the mystery couple only to find out the woman is cheating on her husband. One morning Rachel wakes up after a drunken night out and finds that she is bruised, battered, and bloody with a faint recollection of what happened the night before. News breaks that Megan Hippwell (Bennett), Rachel’s mystery woman, has disappeared and that Rachel was seen lurking in the neighborhood. She gets herself in far too deep as she tries to figure out what happened to Megan and how she is connected to Tom and Anna. It’s a windy road of mistaken identities, torrid affairs, and the obsessive nature that lies within us.
I often have people ask if I like to read the book before seeing the movie version or if I go into the movie without any preconceived notions of what to expect. Ideally, I like to read the book first before seeing the film as many questions that arise from moviegoers are linked to how faithful the movie version is compared to the book. With books like The Girl on the Train there is a lot of buzz coming in, so I actually try to read the book way far in advance of seeing the movie. By the time the movie comes out, I’ve already moved on to other stories and characters that it’s not as fresh on my mind. I can then go into the movie with an open mind without instantly drawing comparisons. I can better appreciate how the story is told through two very different mediums.
Now that my personal disclosure is out of the way, let’s get down to some of those questions. Erin Cressida Wilson’s (Chloe, Secretary) script is a faithful adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel. She keeps to the structure of the book where the first part of the movie is told in different chapters focusing on the three main female characters. At a certain point, those chapter headings go away as the stories start to comingle with each other. It’s also shaped in the same non-linear fashion which will force people to pay attention to the movie as opposed to checking their phones. It keeps the suspense going when you have to put the pieces together of what may have happened to Megan versus how Rachel is trying to put it together. The one big difference between the two versions comes down to the setting. Wilson has shifted the action to upstate New York versus the book’s London atmosphere. This will make no difference for those that haven’t read the book, but it poses some odd realizations that don’t get answered. First off, Emily Blunt still keeps her British accent as Rachel with no mention of what brought Rachel to New York. Plus, there are other British actors in the film that now have American accents. There’s also an income difference and way of living that’s different in both locations. They’re minor details in the grand scheme of the overall movie, but it’s worth noting for the cultural aspects of the story.
Seeing this adaptation can open up an interesting dialogue for book lovers of how we interrupt a story. For me, the book felt more murder mystery driven with Rachel desperately trying to figure out what happened to Megan. She was a highly unstable character who made poor choice after poor choice. The movie feels a bit more open and character driven in a holistic sense to understand who these three women are and what role their actions have on this story. This very much could be Wilson’s interruption of Hawkins’ novel or an artistic choice with director Tate Taylor (The Help) to make it work in a cinematic way. I think both approaches could have worked in tandem to make it more riveting as a whodunit. Pacing is key in this current age of how distracted movie audiences tend to get when a movie isn’t going at a lightning fast speed. This movie should have that as the book worked well as a twisty page-turner. Instead, it has the feel of the old Hitchcock thrillers with the slow burn approach as all of the pieces are put back together. It plays on that concept that certain people, scenes, and moments in life are not always how they appear to us. I was never bored, but it begs the audience to pay attention at all times.
Tate Taylor has an exceptional cast on his hands led by the always fantastic Emily Blunt. Time and time again she has proven herself in every genre whether it’s sci-fi (Edge of Tomorrow), musicals (Into the Woods), comedy (The Devil Wears Prada), action (Sicario), rom-coms, and period pieces. I haven’t seen her in a role quite like Rachel Watson before, and she’s the key component to why I enjoyed the film as much as I did. She completely nails the character from the very first opening sequence. I was very cautious and irritated with the character in the book, but Blunt got me to care as she is far more sympathetic and understandable here. She deeply grasps the psychological aspects of being an alcoholic instead of just playing her as a crazy drunk character. I’d love to see her get some awards consideration. Haley Bennett, who recently appeared in the lackluster Magnificent Seven remake, hones in on the innocent aspects of Megan Hippwell. She very much plays her as an insecure girl who uses her sexuality to gain the attention of the other men in her life. Up front there is the brutish and hunky Luke Evans (The Hobbit) as her forceful husband. The other object of her desire is her therapist, Dr. Abdic, played with dashing appeal by Edgar Ramírez (Hands of Stone). Rebecca Ferguson and Justin Theroux play the other pivotal couple in this web.
The movie will no doubt draw comparisons to Gone Girl being it is a female driven, missing woman type mystery involving illicit affairs and extremely flawed characters. Unlike that film, The Girl on the Train is not as stylish, violent, or shocking as Gone Girl was in its execution. This is Tate Taylor’s fourth film behind the camera with having many acting credits to his name. He hasn’t quite figured out that sharp eye for imagery like Hitchcock or David Fincher has for the genre. That would have taken this film to the next level. It’s still an engaging story, and I think anyone new to the story will be taken for a juicy ride. It will surely keep you guessing as to what happened to Megan Hippwell as there are twists, turns, and of course, a surprise ending.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Those that loved the book should be satisfied with the movie.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS