The Girl on the Train

Tate Taylor’s third feature since becoming a mainstream Hollywood director with The Help, feels like the neglected cousin to Gone Girl. Adapted from the bestselling book of the same name, The Girl on the Train boasts a well assembled cast of Hollywood’s former breakouts, most of them in new character acting territory. Taylor’s film, along with the screenplay written by Erin Cressida Wilson, can’t make its way out of 90’s-television-movie-of-the-week territory. It’s a desperate housewife’s setup with far too many equally dysfunctional and mentally unstable people living right next to each other. While Blunt’s performance is one of the few highlights, it’s not her best work.

Everyday Rachel takes the train through the suburbs into Manhattan. She looks out the window and sketches, yearning for the life she once had on the beautiful street with the ideal houses. Her failed marriage with Tom (Theroux) ended when she picked up the bottle after many failed pregnancies. Now her train passes by the house she decorated, in which Tom now enjoys with his new wife Anna (Ferguson) and their newborn. With no job, and no place of her own, Rachel attempts to drink away her depression daily. One belligerent night, on a routine stop by her former street, she blacks out following an altercation she can’t remember. The next morning, news of young woman from the area is missing. The same woman Rachel watches day after day from the train.

Caters to the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd more so than Gone Girl enthusiasts.

The biggest detractor here is the many central and how unrealistic many of them are in proximity to each other. Nit-picky things about murder scenes, finger prints, time frames and memory loss also hinder the story’s overall credibility when you ponder them longer than a second. The idea behind this plot is to engage the audience in a naughty housewife whodunit mystery. The biggest unsolved mystery is how this many dysfunctional people know each other. A simple suburban murder story deliberately over-complicated by two narratives; one from Rachel’s present day point of view, and another that begins 6 months in the past and slowly works forward. There are many loose ends that this speedy thriller isn’t eager to address as it churns toward the conclusion.

Having recently been seen in strong female portrayals like last year’s Sicario or the action thriller Edge of Tomorrow, Blunt takes a different turn here as the nearly helpless alcoholic. Bennett recently seen as the fighting mad widow in The Magnificent Seven, also shows a weaker side here. In fact, it’s the ballsy detective plaid by Allison Janney who is the only strong minded female character. Taylor isn’t right for this material and the author is trying too hard to piggyback off the success of Gone Girl, as is the film. The more convoluted and interconnected the plot gets, the more desperate the writer of the material appears. It’s very clear why The Girl on the Train was completely absent in all precursor Oscar season film festivals. This movie caters to the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd more so than Gone Girl enthusiasts.

Final Thought

A desperate housewives type story that would be on television instead of the big screen if not for the talent involved.


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