Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

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A woman who watches her old life pass by from the window of a train becomes obsessed with solving the disappearance of another woman with a seemingly perfect life.

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Tate Taylor, 2016

Riding the train to and from New York City every day, alcoholic Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) passes by the suburbs, where she has a view directly into the backyard of her old home and the surrounding houses. She catches twice daily glimpses of the new life of her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby. She also watches the couple who live two doors down, the seemingly perfect, beautiful Megan (Haley Bennett) and her passionate husband Luke Evans. (He had a character name, but it’s irrelevant because they cast Luke Evans to play the Luke Evans role that Luke Evans plays in all Luke Evans movies.) When Megan disappears one day, Rachel feels compelled to tell the police about a clue she thinks she has discovered during her observation of Megan. However, the connections between Rachel, Megan, and Anna draw Rachel further and further into the investigation – and Rachel begins to doubt her own sanity as she seeks the truth.

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I wanted to root for The Girl on the Train so badly. I like Emily Blunt. It has some really good actresses playing some meaty roles. It also deals with a lot of issues that women face. But Girl on the Train wants so badly to be Gone Girl that it twists itself into knots trying to achieve the same sense of tension as that thriller and fails miserably. It’s such a melodramatic swirl of overwrought misery, predictability, and massive plot holes that it’s more of a train wreck than a journey. If you don’t know what happened to Megan within the first 20 minutes of this movie, you have never read a mystery novel or seen a thriller…or watched an episode of any procedural cop show, like, ever. While Emily Blunt is strong as Rachel, a complicated woman who faces very real and identifiable issues, the realism of her feelings contrasts with the film’s unfocused, confusingly constructed plot. The three intertwined narratives – Rachel’s, Anna’s, and Megan’s – occur in two different timelines, and are so unequally balanced. It’s very clear that Rachel is the star here, and the film loses steam when it focuses on the inferior Anna and Megan storylines.

There’s a drab, dreary misery to this movie that leaks into every frame, making it very hard to emotionally invest in any of the characters and jarring painfully with the ending of the film. The whole denouement feels entirely unearned. It doesn’t help matters when Emily Blunt easily outshines almost everyone else on screen. Rebecca Ferguson is a thoroughly unconvincing New York housewife, and Haley Bennett continues to underwhelm as “the girl you cast when you can’t get Jennifer Lawrence”. There’s a particularly horrific scene of hers that contains one of the most upsetting stories ever on film, but she never really conveys the emotions of that moment. Contrasting that scene with Rachel’s breakdown about her lack of faith in herself is a real masterclass in acting. Luke Evans is okay, but it’s only Allison Janney that really brings a strength that can match Emily Blunt’s; their scenes together work the best in the film, and one can’t help but feel that Janney’s detective could have had the case solved in minutes if she’d been given all the information. There are two baffling changes from the book that are wildly jarring in this film. The first is the shift from a London setting to New York: you could keep almost everything intact – including Emily Blunt, who is playing a British character anyway – and it would make much more sense to have so much of the action occur on a train that looks into people’s backyards. The second is the casting of Edgar Ramirez, with a heavy accent, as a character named Dr. Kamal Abdic. The movie looks slick and has some strong moments, but it gets lost in the mire of what it’s trying to be.

The Girl on the Train on IMDb

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