In 2015 a little mystery novel titled The Girl on the Train debuted at the top of the bestseller list and stayed at the top for 13 consecutive weeks. It was impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone reading this book. The cover was a screenshot of a landscape seen from the window of a train moving at lighting speed was enough to intrigue even the wariest of book readers. Now, flash forward a little over a year later and we have the film version of this exciting thriller starring Emily Blunt.
I did read the book. This is not something I do often, I tend to forego the actually source material and rely solely on what the film presents me. I feel it allows me to not get disappointed when certain parts of the book that I love do not make it onto the screen, but I made an exception for this based solely on the fact that I have really bad FOMO (fear of missing out) and everyone was talking about this book. As someone who was a fan of the book, I will say that the film version is fairly faithful to the book aside from a few major changes that fans already knew going to the movie.
The location of the film has been a major cause for concern ever since director Tate Taylor (he directed The Help) made the announcement that that the film would take place in NJ & NYC. Fans were outraged because the original text takes place in London. This along with the addition of a character named Martha (Lisa Kudrow) sent fans into a tizzy. However, I will say that both of these changes did not bother me in the slightest. It is a shame that we were unable to see the beautiful country side of London but in the grand scheme of the plot, it did not make a difference as far as storytelling.
The film and novel both revolve around a trio of woman. At the center of it all is Rachel Watson an alcoholic woman who becomes obsessed with a couple she sees every morning while taking the train into the city. That couple is Megan and Scott Hipwell (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans). She is partially drawn to them because of how in love they look but also because they live two doors down from where Rachel used to live with her now ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). One morning while on the train Rachel sees something and thus begins the mystery into the disappearance of Megan Hipwell.
This is Blunt’s film. She owns and disappears into the alcoholic character of Rachel Watson. Her lips are chapped, she has barely any make-up on, her hair is a mess. She embodies this truly pained and confused character. I wish, oh how I wish so much that Blunt will finally get an Oscar nomination, because she that good. It is is wishful thinking but that hopefulness just further proves how fantastic she is in this film. Blunt plays Rachel with so much outward pain both physically and emotionally that it is hard to look away when she is on screen even though you want to because she is so damaged. Honestly, she needed a hug the whole film.
Another standout actress from the film is Haley Bennett who plays Megan Hipwell. Megan is such a complex character. The choices she makes are not great, she’s not exactly a talkative person and she longs for something greater than her normal life. Bennett is extraordinary. She plays Megan the opposite of Blunt’s Rachel with all of her emotions on the inside wanting to break through but never truly doing so until the end of her storyline. Whenever she is on screen, her pain and sadness bleed through her eyes without her even saying a word. It is chilling to watch.
Unfortunately, the last of the trio of woman is not as fleshed out in the film as she in the book. Anna is a character who you loath through most of the book, in the movie she just happens to be there. Rebecca Ferguson is all but fine in the role but I wish it lived up to the character that made up 1/3 of the book.
The rest of the cast particularly the men are perfectly good their roles as husbands. That was actually one of the more exciting things about both the film and novel, the men were not front and center. This was a woman’s story. Allison Janney does nice work as usual, and Lisa Kudrow is great in her little scene that actually helps to move the plot along in a creative way.
Director Tate Taylor is not David Fincher (who directed Gone Girl) but he is a talented director who uses the idea of drunkenness and blurry vision to really allow the audience to feel like they don’t truly understand these characters or what is happening in their world.
While I enjoyed the performances of the film, I will say that the actual film fell flat. Perhaps it’s because I knew the big twist at the end, or because I knew the turns in narrative before they occurred on screen. But something about the overall mystery seemed thin and like it could not support itself for a two-hour film. The big reveal moments did not pack as much of a punch as they should have and the end seemed to come hurdling at you like a train, that it took a moment to realize that the end had arrived.
The Girl on the Train was a well crafted, thrilling, mystery that worked wonderfully as an almost 200-page book, as a two hour film the mystery seems lackluster. The performances of Blunt and Bennett save the film in the end and I do recommend seeing the film whether you know the outcome going into the theater or not. Perhaps if I did not read the book the mystery would have played better, who’s to say?
The Girl on the Train, overall, falls victim to what we already know to be true: the book is better.