Tara Fox Giddings
“The Girl on the Train,” directed by Tate Taylor and based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, isn’t sober enough to be a classic, but I still found it entertaining. It is a dark, twisting film without much depth but with plenty of suspense, thanks to Emily Blunt’s incredible portrayal of a damaged woman and a variety of side characters who become tangled in a web of lies, murder, sex and everything that makes for an intriguing thriller.
The story follows three women, and as the film unfolds they become more connected. The plot revolves around Rachel (Blunt), a woman struggling to make it through life, and at many times struggling to walk in a straight line. Rachel was betrayed by her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and her life has fallen apart; now, all she has is the ability to daydream about the seemingly perfect lives of a couple she sees from the train everyday. The woman in the “perfect” relationship, Megan (Haley Bennett) is a blonde hot mess, continually searching for a new life to outrun her checkered past. At the start of the film, Megan is the nanny for the third woman, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who just happens to be the mother of Tom’s baby.
One day, Rachel sees Megan kissing a man who is not her husband from the view on the train and her daydream is shattered. She gets off the train after a night of drinking and blacks out, forgetting the entire night. The next day, Megan is missing and the broken lives of all the characters become entwined (including Megan’s therapist (Edgar Ramirez), whose couch, it turns out, is used for a bit more than resting). Rachel becomes focused on finding both Megan and her memory, uncovering secrets along the way.
This film has a sexy and dangerous air, fairly similar to others of its genre. The twists and turns of the possible suspects is a bit like a game of Clue, leading to the thrilling, if not altogether unexpected, ending. The women of the film struggle with motherhood and have backstories to explain how their lives lead to this point. The men have only accents, shower sex and lies; they don’t lead the story line, but add to the complex connections.
From the switches in narration, to the close up shots and blurry moments that portray just how wasted Blunt’s character really is, the film uses cinematography to build suspense and confusion. The film’s chilling score, composed by Danny Elfman, adds to the haunting ambiance. The film is slow, sometimes to a fault, but overall the pacing lends a simmering intensity and adds to the suspense. While the film attempts to be a bit more meaningful than it is, it still engaged me and made me want to watch the thrills unfold.
The performances that made the film worth watching were from Emily Blunt and Lisa Kudrow. Blunt is excellent as Rachel. She manages to portray the character as someone whose pain is not a beautiful statement, but loss, invoking a sense of sympathy. Lisa Kudrow shines in a very small role as an acquaintance from Rachel’s past who helps her to recall her memories, making her five minutes some of the most memorable of the film.
This is a suspense film. You don’t go to see a thriller like this looking for the best character development. Go see this film because it has a sense of curiosity and something dark lurking in the background. It’s still a fun way to spend two hours.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Photo credit: UNIVERSAL