Despite good performances from a cast including Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux and Allison Janney, The Girl on the Train winds up being a little too ridiculous for a movie that wishes to be taken seriously.
Blunt spends much of the movie blotto-drunk as Rachel Watson, a slurring alcoholic who aimlessly rides a train to New York City everyday, spying on the people living in her former house, as well as the neighbors. Rachel is divorced from Tom (Theroux), who couldn’t take Rachel’s drinking ways; he was also upset about their inability to have a child. Tom is remarried to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson); they have a child—and they would really like Rachel to stay away.
Tom and Nancy’s nanny, Megan (Haley Bennett), lives nearby with her husband, Scott (Luke Evans). Rachel spies on them during their most intimate moments as she races by on the train, envying what she sees as a perfect young romance. Then she sees Megan with another man, setting off an odd, drunken tailspin that results in her getting involved in the drama when Megan goes missing.
For starters, I’m not down with this premise: A deliriously drunk woman is able to decipher the goings-on inside homes—as she races by in a train? Yes, sometimes the train slows down, and she does know the inhabitants somewhat, but this is a highly unlikely plot gimmick that’s stretched out to unrealistic proportions. Then she gets involved with the missing woman’s husband, and eventually finds herself a target in the investigation.
Rachel is the most unreliable of characters, constantly blurred by the hard alcohol she’s slurping from a sippee cup. The script calls for many of her observations and actions to be unreliable due to her constant intoxication. She blacks out, loses time and even has other characters telling her lies to convince her she’s behaving abnormally. However, she’s able to put together key elements of a woman’s disappearance while racing past on a train with a blood alcohol count in the stratosphere.
Sorry, sometimes scripts ask me to go places where I can’t go, and I couldn’t go along for the ride on this one. Too much of this movie calls for the viewer to accept unrealistic circumstances and situations.
Did I still enjoy the movie on some levels? Yes, somewhat. I like how Emily Blunt plays inebriated in this movie. She’s a total mess, but Rachel keeps herself sympathetic. Theroux is great as the confused, protective ex who pleads with his current wife to cut Rachel a break—up until the point where he can no longer defend her. Janney is awesome as the grinning investigator who doesn’t buy Rachel’s story. I want another movie with her as the main character.
There’s a big mystery at play here, and the answer to that mystery becomes obvious perhaps earlier than director Tate Taylor suspects it does. Still, I liked how the mystery played out, and the performance opportunities it offered to some of the performers. Some members of the cast gets to go to truly dark places, and they do it well.
This is also a very good-looking movie, creepily shot by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, with a terrific score by Danny Elfman. Even though his movie goes to some goofy extremes, Taylor clearly knows how to get strong performances from his cast, and he’s assembled a nice one.
The Girl on the Train has its problems, but it isn’t a complete waste of time. See it if you are a Blunt fan, and if you are a fan of the book. If you haven’t read the book, or could care less about Blunt and like your thrillers a little more plausible, this one might not be for you.
The Girl on the Train is playing at theaters across the valley.