thu 23/05/2024

The Girl on the Train | reviews, news & interviews

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

If you loved the book, don't see the movie

Train in vain: Emily Blunt as Rachel

Much was anticipated from Tate Taylor's film version of Paula Hawkins's bestselling novel, but there really are times when the best plan is to stay home with a good book. Despite a high-octane girl-power cast and the lustrous screenwriting reputation of Erin Cressida Wilson, this thing clanks along like the 3am milk train to Exeter sidings.

It probably didn't help that the action has been transported from Hawkins's grimy London commuterland to the plusher environs of upstate New York (though at least it means Emily Blunt's rail-riding character, Rachel, always gets a seat), which seems to spray a patina of moneyed unreality over the proceedings. But props and scenery aside, the film is torpedoed by a fatal mix of feeble characterisation and a murder-mystery plot which has all the scintillating impetus of a tin bath full of coal.

On paper, the role of alcoholic, jilted, betrayed, depressed, paranoid Rachel must have looked like a protein-packed opportunity, but Blunt never gets past the "alcoholic" part. Condemned to permanently slurring her words, lurching from side to side even when the train isn't and swigging vodka from an unmarked bottle, Blunt looks as if she's auditioning for a job tripping over and falling off things at the circus. It's no wonder her fellow-travellers are loath to sit next to her.

Anyway, it's on her regular solo travels (only late on do we learn that she's pathetically commuting to nowhere, since her drinking got her sacked from her PR job) that she obsesses over glimpses of the house where she used to live with her husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux). Tom now lives there with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson, pictured above, doting over the baby which Rachel failed to produce), with whom he was conducting an affair before his split with Rachel. To deepen her misery, Rachel starts to fixate over another couple two houses along, who seem to her – even though she gets only the briefest glimpses of them as the train speeds past – to live an idyllic lifestyle of glamour, exotic sex and stylish household furnishings.

This couple, we learn, are Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett, pictured left,  and Pontypool's own Luke Evans), and when Rachel is horrified to see Megan kissing a strange man on her terrace, the incident becomes the trigger which ignites the story's entangled and incestuous web of relationships. Megan happens to be the babysitter for Anna's daughter Edie, but she hates living in this oppressive suburban neighbourhood ("it's just a baby factory," she snorts), and the man she was apparently snogging isn't the only extra-marital adventure in her life. The minx! Mind you, she does have a Tragic Incident in her own past to deal with.

In more dynamic hands, all this could have been whisked up into a dark and twisty Hitchcockian brew, but despite the discovery of a dead body, The Girl... merely ends up as dull and slightly risible (my fellow cinemagoers burst out laughing at the final big reveal). Maybe it's the casting. The three women leads are all absurdly glamorous (even booze-raddled Em), but Anna is smug and self-satisfied while Megan floats around in a haze of vapid self-adoration. The men are no better. Theroux's Tom is a brittle, charmless bully, while Scott resembles a permanently angry boxer looking for someone to punch. The only saving graces are Lisa Kudrow, in a minor role as Tom's boss, and Alison Janney as the pushy but effective Detective Riley. Verdict: last train to Snoresville.


In more dynamic hands, all this could have been whisked up into a dark and twisty Hitchcockian brew


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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