The adaptation of The Girl on the Train never really excels beyond adequate, drags for a pulpy thriller, but Emily Blunt takes full advantage of her showcase.
Blunt stars as, Rachel, our titular heroine or maybe not?, as her perpetually drunken stupor leaves her with a large window of blackout time when one of the people she obsesses over out her train window goes missing. Why would a passer by on the train be a suspect, because the plot of the film is full of twists, turns and a lot of interconnections between our six main characters, all while the police are circling the fringes. The missing girl, Megan, is married to Scott, who are neighbors to Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband, and his new wife, Anna, who occupy the home Rachel and Tom used to live in. Throw in a therapist, a cop or two, and a train ride that takes Rachel past the backyards of Megan and Anna’s home twice a day, and you have a recipe for intrigue.
Expect, the intrigue never gets all that intriguing. I’m not someone who is trying to figure it out, but I had a pretty good hunch where this all was going about as early as one could figure it out. The filmmaking also takes the source material, which I had heard was a pulpy page turner, into a self-serious slog, that never escapes the fell of a novel without the urgency to get on to what is next. The film feels very bound to the book and its structure, you can feel every chapter break in the film, but where the changing perspectives and retracing scenes from different point of views makes a lot of sense in a book, in a film it gets quite repetitive. So much imagery is repeated over and over again, and it never tries to speed things up when imagery repeats itself. Director Tate Taylor and his editing don’t trust the viewer to stay with it and it ends up dragging the film down, especially in the film’s final third. The film’s final act also kneecaps the actual tension it was building to give us a “how it happened” flashback and then when we return to the present the stakes of the situation have changed to eliminate the tension.
All of the characters also lack much depth, besides Blunt’s Rachel, and no one is really given a whole lot to do. Megan has a little background that makes her character more interesting, Tom too, but when they aren’t given those small bits most everyone is playing a type. Blunt is quite good as Rachel, and the script gives her a lot to do. Rachel is a drunken mess much of the film, a woman constantly crumbling, and Blunt is able to sell that and convinces us she is competent enough to put the mystery’s pieces together all the same. Blunt plays drunk incredibly well by the way, really impressive work. There is no nod to the “trashy” side of this genre, though, in Blunt’s performance; only thing I wish we go more of. Justin Theroux is probably my second place winner in the cast, and he is giving a performance that is most attuned to the type of movie I wanted it to be.
Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson star as Megan and Anna, respectively, and I wish these two got more to do; especially Ferguson. These ladies are set up to be equal players in this story with Rachel in the opening scenes and neither of them come remotely close to getting to fill those purposed shoes. This isn’t Bennett or Ferguson’s fault, the script does serve their characters, but neither of them are able to elevate their parts either. Bennett’s Megan certainly had the space to do so, but she wasn’t really up to the task. Ferguson, on the other hand, didn’t really stand a chance to make a leap with what she is given. In fact, her character is such a non-factor in the film, when she is finally given a big, pulpy moment in the end, it feels completely unearned. Rounding out the cast are Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez, Evans plays macho, aggressive husband to a T, but Ramirez feels like he could have given a bit more mystery to his psychiatrist character.
The Girl on the Train is worth a watch for Blunt’s performance, and the film is adequate enough to watch, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to see this; even if you were a diehard fan of the novel. Too slow, no thrills and many missed opportunities hold The Girl on the Train back, when we going to give Emily Blunt the film she deserves!