The Girl on the Train - Screen Fantastique film review
Reviewed by: Mark Geraghty Review date: October 6, 2016
Screen Fantastique rating: 3 stars
The Girl on the Train has pulled into cinemas, delivering an adaptation of the namesake novel that successfully entertains but doesn’t really do much to inform. For the unaware, Tate Taylor’s film is based on the hugely successful 2015 novel by Paula Hawkins. To suggest that Hawkins’ novel rode on the coattails of public interest surrounding Gillian Flynn’s similar Gone Girl may be an over-stretch, but there’s no doubt, the two stories share a tone that flows into their feature film off-shoots. Where Gone Girl benefited from the superior talent of David Fincher, The Girl on the Train is more workmanlike in approach and Taylor is still early in his directing career and is not in the same league as Fincher. That said, The Girl on the Train benefits from a strong cast; headlined by Emily Blunt, whose character Rachel, is not so much a girl on a train, but a trashy, tragic figure whose descent into alcoholism stems from the pain of her failed marriage.
The story is relatively slow moving, opening with Haley Bennett’s Megan recounting her relationship issues with her therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic, played by Edgar Ramirez. Megan tells the Doctor of how she struggles in her job as a nanny and can’t wait to get home to wash the smell of the child from her. The viewer becomes part of Megan’s story, partaking in the child’s care and meeting the child’s somewhat distant mother, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Megan’s decision to quit her job as a nanny shifts the focus of the story to Anna and her husband Tom (Justin Theroux), who seems a much more down-to-earth and easy-going fellow than his somewhat uptight wife. Anna’s behaviour is in reaction to the ongoing distraction of Tom’s ex-wife Rachel (Blunt), whose unpredictability has thrown Anna’s life into turmoil; so it would seem. Rachel is battling alcoholism and her disturbing behaviour is carefully deconstructed throughout the course of the film’s 112 minute running time to ensure the Final Act can play out in a satisfying fashion. However, before all of that, the viewer learns that Anna and Tom had an affair when Tom was still married to Rachel, so Rachel has some justification for being pissed about what has transpired over the last two years of her life.
While Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay adaptation of Hawkins’ novel takes some liberties with location (moving the story from London to New York), the core of the narrative remains. She and Taylor choose to focus primarily on Rachel’s fractured point-of-view of events, jumping back and forth in time to reveal events that have led Rachel, Anna and Megan’s paths to cross. There’s more than a fair dash of contrivance that has gone into The Girl on the Train to make the plot fit the narrative. Viewers who prod at the story hard enough after walking out of the cinema will suddenly find themselves questioning the how and when certain events could have taken place. There’s a distinct benefit in NOT trying to deconstruct the story after the credits have rolled and simply remain immersed in the film based on what the Director and his talented cast have presented. To do otherwise will result in a real-life clarity that equals the fictional epiphany Emily Blunt’s titular “Girl” undergoes in this engrossing, slightly above-average psychodrama.