Movie Review: The Girl on the Train
R | 112 min
Director: Tate Taylor
by Jason Koenigsberg
Maybe it worked better as a book. The Girl on the Train tries desperately to be a Hitchcockian thriller for the twenty first century but instead emerges as a big budget Lifetime Movie. Director Tate Taylor who is making a niche for himself cranking out pedestrian movies like The Help (2011) and the James Brown biopic Get on Up (2014) has once again crafted a mundane film from what should have been an exciting, nail-biting mystery.
The opening shot shows blurry trees in Autumn passing by as if we are just waking up on a train, and then a train speeds right across the frame. We meet Rachel (Emily Blunt) and early on see that she has an unhealthy fascination with a beautiful blonde woman she sees from the train on her daily commute to Grand Central Station in New York City. This fascination turns into an obsession and we learn right after that her character has a serious drinking problem.
The other main characters in The Girl on the Train are Megan (Haley Bennett), the nanny for her ex husband’s (Justin Theroux) baby, and his wife (Rebecca Ferguson) whom we all meet and find out their lives are connected slowly as the plot unravels thanks to a narrative that goes out of order. Plus the audience cannot take anything in this movie at face value since we know the central character is a huge alcoholic and any scenes told from her point of view may not be what really happened.
One of the themes from The Girl on the Train that really stood out was how these women all are unable to fit into the norms and mores of society in 2016. What could have been a smart social commentary crossed with a crime-thriller mystery similar to Gone Girl (2014) is just another prosaic time killer with strong influence from Hitchcock and even David Lynch with the whole idea of never being able to tell what is real and what is made up.
The result is that The Girl on the Train is a mediocre movie and not much more. The expository dialogue felt forced and the audience will never really empathize with any of the characters the way they should. This is an even bigger shame when at the center of The Girl on the Train is a brave performance from Emily Blunt. For years now I have been asking myself why is she not a bigger star. She is beautiful, smart and can jump into any genre excelling in both lead (last years Sicario) and supporting roles (The Devil Wears Prada from ten years ago). She plays a heartbroken alcoholic well and is the only character that makes any of the contrived story worth following.
With a convoluted plot, predictable twists and a fairly obvious ending, there is not much to recommend with this film. Unless you are in the mood for an above average made for TV movie, let The Girl on the Train pass you by.
I mentioned Gone Girl, but a movie that even fewer people have seen that is very similar in plot and themes to The Girl on the Train is Sam Raimi’s Southern gothic thriller The Gift (2000). If you have not seen it now is the perfect time to check it out since it has more of a horror movie feel which makes it a perfect movie to watch in October.