The Girl on the Train Derails
October 16, 2016
After the success of David Fincher’s Oscar-nominated masterwork, Gone Girl, it was inevitable that the studio system would attempt to ape that film’s washed-out, suburban style of thriller. Universal answered the call, with their adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestseller, “The Girl on the Train”. Although the film features a remarkably restrained central performance, its lack of narrative drive or energy ultimately sends it flying off the rails.
The film follows Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a divorced alcoholic struggling to come to terms with her addiction and lost memories. Having woken up bruised and covered in blood, Rachel is shocked when confronted by police about her possible involvement in the disappearance of a woman (Haley Bennett), who she had obsessively viewed from her train window every morning for months. Rachel quickly becomes embroiled in a web of deceit and white-collar depression, uncovering the secrets held not only by the missing woman but by her husband (Luke Evans), therapist (Edgar Ramirez), and employers (Justin Theroux and Rebecca Ferguson).
Directed by The Help helmer, Tate Taylor, The Girl on the Train feels distinctly amateurish, reminiscent less of the Fincher-esque thrillers it desperately hopes to imitate and more of a Lifetime special. Chock full of voiceover bordering on the pretentious and characters so devoid of likability they may as well be mannequins, the film lacks any sense of craftsmanship.
That overriding sense of laziness is even more palpable in the film’s structure. Taylor can never quite decide what he wants his work to be, jumping from unending robotic monologues to hypnotic, dream-like sequences with little to no ramp up. While the second act is largely coherent, the first and third acts feel hastily cobbled together, particularly the latter, featuring a closing scene that manages to neither provide a meaningful conclusion nor gel with anything that’s come before it.
However, the film does have a saving grace: Emily Blunt. The immeasurably talented actress somehow manages to rise above the shoddy material, delivering a powerhouse performance that never surrenders to the character’s prescribed histrionics.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast is less successful. While Evans and Ramirez are solid, much of the rest are simply miscast, particularly Theroux feeling ridiculously out of his range. With perhaps the second most important role in the film, Haley Bennett does what she can with one of the most insufferable characters in a film this year; her portrayal of Megan fails to do anything but drone on through blank-faced complaints.
Narratively confused, devoid of originality or emotion, and filled with unlikeable and stale characters, Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train is a hollow misfire, despite a fantastic lead performance from Emily Blunt.