It’s clear the creative talent behind the film adaptation of author Paula Hawkins’ best selling book The Girl on the Train is attempting to replicate the success of Gone Girl. In fact, the studio has even gone so far as to position the release of the former film in the same time frame as the latter film’s release from exactly two years ago. It’s undeniable that both films have similar themes at play but that’s where the similarities end. While Gone Girl had director David Fincher calling the shots, The Girl on the Train has director Tate Taylor (The Help) behind the camera. With all due apologies, Taylor simply isn’t up to the level of technical proficiency one associates with Fincher’s work. Having said that, the stylistic differences between the two directors are only one of the problems that plague this film.
A big wrongheaded issue at play is also inherent in Hawkins’ original source material. Or so I’m told. Not having read the original novel, I can’t say for sure. Certainly one of the issues plaguing the film is the lack of surprise regarding the identity of the villain. I’m told by those familiar with Hawkins’ novel that the problems were there from the get go. As such, the lack of suspense serves as a serious detriment to the film. Had more care been taken as to withholding the identity of this character, the film’s journey might have been much more enjoyable. When you can easily do the cinematic math at the beginning of the film, easily figure things out, the film’s journey becomes a lot less fun in the process. And the journey is supposed to be part of the fun in any endeavor.
What the film does have going for it, and there’s no denying it, is the central performance by Emily Blunt. She’s totally believable in the guise of the film’s main character, Rachel. Blunt always manages to elevate anything she’s a part of and The Girl on the Train is no exception to this rule. It continues Blunt’s seemingly unbeatable streak of great performances.
Rachel is an interesting character to be sure, having become a burnt out drunk after the dissolution of her marriage. This is coupled with her inability to bear children, an unfortunate physical defect that served as a factor in Rachel’s former husband (Justin Theroux) being unfaithful. Rachel takes the said train of the film’s title each day, passing her former home and the home of her former neighbor, Megan (Haley Bennett) on a daily basis. After Rachel spies Megan seemingly having a fling, an event that brings back bad memories, she decides to confront her. Instead she passes out, awakening bloodied and to the knowledge that Megan is missing and maybe even dead. Whether or not Rachel had a part in the girl’s disappearance forms the crux of the film’s mystery.
The film has an interesting structure, showcasing the story from both Megan and Rachel’s viewpoints but, unfortunately, this isn’t enough to keep the audience in suspense. When the mystery is so obvious it would be hard to maintain anyone’s interest. And that includes movie audiences.
Photo: Emily Blunt in Girl on the Train
This is playing at the Carmike in Hickory and area theaters.
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