Here’s the biggest problem with Rachel (Emily Blunt), a head case alcoholic stalker, as the protagonist of The Girl On The Train: We can’t trust her. She’s an emotional wreck who makes a habit of drinking to the point of blacking out and waking the next morning with no memory of the night before. As the story progresses and she embarks on a journey to find the whereabouts of a missing woman, we can never believe her discoveries because nothing about her is trustworthy. And if you can’t believe anything you’re watching for 112 minutes, you will not emotionally invest in the movie.
Rachel’s a sad case. Her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) left her after she couldn’t conceive and quickly shacked up with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). That was two years ago – Tom and Anna now have a baby. Rachel, in full stalker mode, rides a train past their home every day, and is also intrigued by a couple named Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) who live a few doors down. Rachel views them as a loving, perfect couple for whom she imagines a world of happiness.
That is, until she sees Megan kissing another man. Though it’s none of her business she goes to confront Megan about it, only to be knocked out and wake up the next morning hung over, battered and bruised. Worse, Megan is missing and Rachel cannot account for her actions the night before. Rachel’s search for the truth drives the narrative, flawed as it is – a few twists and turns keep you guessing, but the ending is predictable.
The investigation should be the best part of the film, and it’s not. Director Tate Taylor (“The Help”), working from screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel, needs to intrigue us with false leads, small clues, and seemingly insignificant pieces of information that turn out to make all the difference. That’s the type of movie this is. What we get instead are some flashes/visions from unreliable Rachel, superfluous characters played by Allison Janney, Laura Prepon, Lisa Kudrow and Edgar Ramirez who have no essential influence on the story, and male characters who are as underdeveloped as female characters usually are in male-driven films. Add it up and it’s a moody mystery thriller that never engages us enough to have us hooked on the outcome.
Rachel is a tough part for any actress, and Blunt does what she can with a role that’s designed to be an absolute mess. The only acting standout here, though, is Bennett, who handles the duplicity and dissatisfaction of Megan remarkably well. Bennett has been around for years in small supporting roles (including The Magnificent Seven, in theaters now), so this could be the breakout performance she’s been waiting for.
Of course, if no one goes to the movie it will all be for naught. Some have called The Girl On The Train this year’s Gone Girl, and though there are some similarities Train is nowhere near the film Gone Girl was. That’s fine – not many movies are. But to be so far away from genuine quality that you can barely hold an audience, that’s not good at all.
The Girl on the Train (R) Dir. Tate Taylor; feat. Emily Blunt,
Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson
Opens October 7 HH