The first words of The Girl on the Train left me with a bland taste in my mouth, which never seemed to leave throughout the following 112 minutes.
Emily Blunt’s calming voice candidly stated, “I am not the girl I used to be.” A long pause followed, probably to let the line sink in and cause the audience to wonder about the many faces of Rachel, Blunt’s character, who looked out of a train compartment window with a look of angst and dazed confusion. Sadly for the scriptwriters, the cliché line left me hoping that the movie would pick up energy and rise in thrills. The understated line simply had no impact.
Going into the movie after reading up on the novel it was based upon, I was led to believe that it [the mov
ie] would be filled with suspense and shock. I wanted the film to give me goosebumps on my arms and send shivers down my spine. Unfortunately, The Girl on the Train plodded on from one distressed and distraught character to the next, with not enough gasps from the audience or even subtle twists and turns in the plot.
Perhaps I set my hopes too high. Perhaps I was expecting an Alfred Hitchcock but instead received a Spike Jonze. Perhaps I was let down because of the film’s incredible predictability.
Even though my mind kept wandering off, I did understand the basic plot, as I’ve probably seen the story told a thousand times. We find ourselves looking down upon an alcoholic mess of a woman, Rachel, as she struggles through her bleak day-to-day life, trying not to fixate on her recent divorce by diverging her attention to a young, married couple she can see from her train compartment window, imagining their lives like they are dolls in her twisted playhouse. Rachel’s life is like watching a tape on monotonous replay (with occasional drunken blackouts on her part). This is until she becomes a suspect in the murder of her young supermodel of a neighbor named Megan– coincidentally half of the couple she daydreamed fondly about.
The interesting twist to the redundant story was that instead of a traditional who-done-it, The Girl on the Train was more of a I-swear-I-didn’t-do-it-I-will-prove-I-didn’t-do-it, with Blunt aimlessly trying to defend her innocence against bitter ex-spouses, tough investigators, and her own depraved conscience.
While in the novel, Paula Hawkins created a captivating plot and set of distinctive characters, the film did not do her creative genius justice. Plainly looking at reviews one can see the different response to the book versus movie. The novel sold over one million copies in just shy of a year and was atop The New York Times top 25 bestsellers list for 13 consecutive weeks. The movie, on the other hand, has a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and many fans have been taking to their laptops and tablets to complain about the adaptation.
The characters in the film are similar to the ones in the novel as they are unlikeable and their personalities and moods change in a snap. One can never like them long enough to call them a favorite, or even a good person. Each character is unsettling in their own way, each is deep down scarred by their manipulative actions.
Rachel’s character is one with intense periods of alcoholic blackouts who at times seems to be spiraling down her own wretched rabbithole. Emily Blunt managed to impersonate and bring to life the drawling drunk with self conviction and weak morals, making a character that one could neither love nor hate. To be honest, Blunt’s performance is what saved this movie; as Rachel drew closer and closer to hitting rock bottom, I was becoming drawn into watching her from the god-like angle the film was shot in. Whenever Rachel’s destructive actions caused her strife, I felt pangs of pity and sympathy, but at the same time wanted to turn away in cringing embarrassment.
Blunt’s brilliant acting thankfully at times blocked out the predictability of the plot, or at least how it was staged. The acting of the other characters added no suspense to the movie, as none of them had any emotional depth or complexity. Maybe the emotional context of each character was masked by the large amount of onscreen fornication that took place which certainly left more of a lasting picture than the actual scenes which were meant to build upon the truth– who really killed Megan.
The Girl on the Train let my hopes down, my spine without shivers, and my arms goosebump free. Instead of a nail-biting story of revenge and betrayal, The Girl on the Train was more of a series of pieced-together memories of Rachel’s past to make up her character. I’m fine with quality character development, but what about plot and twists and turns and excessive red herrings. The movie was lacking in all of those categories, and I don’t expect it to get many nominations, with the exception of Blunt for Best Actress. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the film to carry her talented performance.