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The Girl on the Train (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train


Starring Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon, Darren Goldstein, Cleta E. Ellington, Lana Young, Rachel Christopher, Fernando Medina, Gregory Morley, Mac Tavares, John Norris, Nathan Shapiro, Tamiel Paynes and Peter Mayer-Klepchick.

Screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson.

Directed by Tate Taylor.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  112 minutes.  Rated R.

Paula Hawkin’s hit novel The Girl on the Train was arguably the biggest thriller since Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  Therefore, it is no big surprise that it quickly followed that novel to the big screen.  The two books were also structured somewhat similarly, with an odd time structure and more than one unreliable narrator turning the story into an intricate puzzle.

Like Gone Girl, the book of The Girl on the Train is infinitely better than its imperfect, but mostly enjoyable film adaptation.  Technically Gone Girl was a little better than The Girl on the Train as a movie, mostly because it was more faithful to the source material and also because David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club, Se7en) is a much more distinctive filmmaker than The Girl on the Train‘s flashy-but-shallow hack director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up).

Still, The Girl on the Train is a pretty taut little thriller, particularly if you have not read the book.

The big question going into the filming of the movie was simply this: Isn’t Emily Blunt much too young and too attractive to play Rachel, the very, very flawed heroine of The Girl on the Train.  Rachel is supposed to be a 40-ish frumpy, alcoholic, unemployed and out of control, totally wrecked by the break-up of her marriage a few years before.  Perhaps she is, but Blunt throws herself into the role gamely, showing her dramatic chops by wallowing in the character’s pathetic self-hatred and giving a nuanced look at a black-out drunk who is so unhappy with her life that she throws herself into dangerous situations where she undoubtedly has no place.

She currently spends her life riding the train up and down the Long Island line (for some reason the film’s location has been changed from London to suburban New York, though Blunt still plays the role with her natural British accent), drinking and spying on two houses along the way.

The other two women that The Girl on the Train rides upon are as toxic and bruised as Rachel, but in other ways, live in those two houses, a few doors down from each other.  They are Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the woman who stole her husband, who is now living in her old home with her old husband, playing the role of a happy wife and mother but chafing under the domesticity.

The other woman, Rachel does not even know, but she turns out to be Meghan (Haley Bennett).  Rachel noticed her because from a distance, Meghan appears to be living a perfect, blissfully happy life with her doting husband.  Rachel has ascribed an entire fantasy life to the woman, one that comforts her that true love is possible, with no way of knowing how unhappy, angry and basically fucked up Meghan really is.

Therefore, when Meghan mysteriously disappears, on a night in which Rachel was black-out drunk and has vague memories of being on the scene of the possible crime, Rachel throws herself desperately into figuring out what happened on that night.

It’s a tense, fascinating set up, which is undoubtedly why the book became such a best-seller.  Unlike Gone Girl, this movie is not quite as accurate to the book.  The character of Meghan’s husband Scott (Luke Evans) is significantly cut down, as is the two characters of the police looking into the crime.  Allison Janney is wonderful, as always, as the skeptical lead detective, but I don’t think her partner had more than a handful of words in the film.

In the end, The Girl on the Train is definitely worth the time because the source material was so good that it was almost impossible to mess up.  While I do believe the film could have been better made, it’s still a terrific popcorn thriller.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: October 7, 2016.

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