The Girl on the Train is a frustrating story in so many ways. You have to put up with three unrelaible narrators, one of whom is an alcoholic to the extent that most people I know to have read the novel enjoyed it, but hated Rachel by the half-way point. The drama is engaging and the novel is utterly thrilling, but Tate Taylor’s adaptation has been rushed and gives an even more uneven version of the story.
For those unfamiliar with the source material, Paula Hawkins’ 2015 Novel is the thrilling story of a bored commuter, a psychotically damaged woman in her 30s fearing her husband, and ‘the other woman’.
Rachel Watson, (Emily Blunt), commutes every day, and as a little past-time, enjoys little fantasies about what she percieves to be the perfect couple that she passes. Rachel is recently divorced, from Tom (Justin Theroux), who still lives in their house a few doors down, with new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their new baby, Evie, that she can’t help but glare at every day. On the same day that Rachel is convinced that her favourite girl has started cheating on her perfect husband, Megan (Hayley Bennett), the girl, goes missing, and Scott (Luke Evans is the immeadiate suspect. Rachel, for reasons beyond better judgement, is in the area at the same time, and finds herself wrapped into the investigation and getting unweildly close to her past relationships.
What should be psychologically thrilling and a film about mental health, addiction, alcohol, questions over the power of memory, somewhat fires on all cylinders and missing most of its targets. Danny Elfman’s soundtrack is occasionally brilliant, achieving a creepy Nine-Inch-Nails feel, but sometimes is overpoweringly trying to create a detective film that this just should not be.
The main reward for buying a ticket is Emily Blunt’s performance. Convincingly drunk, layered, and carefully characterised, Rachel is engaging to watch. Tate Taylor and Blunt have clearly spent so much time making this her awards-season film. I wonder if the rest of the cast got time to rehearse, because they all play caricatures. Rebecca Ferguson has either been given no direction about what her character’s story is and what to portray, or is literally playing Anna with the characteristics of ‘living’ and ‘doesn’t like Rachel’. Everyone is either playing this as if in a parody of arthouse dour noir or hamming their performances up to nine.
I’m making it sound like its imposisble to enjoy. It’s not. It’s a good film but it’s not the great film that it should be. The twists are never shocking, the characters only exist in their scenes and fail to give the impression of being real beyond their screentime, but you will be hooked. The story and confusing unawareness of what the story actually is by our leads works wonders, and will please most. However, if you found the novel difficult to enjoy as it drags on without any real surprises; you might not enjoy this rushed and not-fully-thought-through adaptation beyond Emily Blunt.