Title: The Girl on the Train
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson
based on the novel of Paula Hawkins
Music: Danny Elfman
Cinematography: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
A cinema-going of this best-seller parlayed movie adaptation with Tate Taylor at the helm, an able hand behind THE HELP (2011). THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN’s female-centred story-line and its bleak scenario immediately recall David Fincher’s GONE GIRL (2014), but here the structure and emphasis are clearly leaning towards a whodunit genre thriller, shepherded by a fearless performance from its leading actress.
Emily Blunt plays the titular girl, Rachel Watson, a daily commuter on the train to-and-fro Manhattan (transposed from London in Hawkins’ source novel), call her a “girl”, a term spontaneously suggests youth and allure, might seem to be a stretch in the context, since Rachel is an absolute sad sack, she is divorced from his husband Tom Watson (Theroux) but still keeps his surname, who cheated on her with a comely beauty Anna (Ferguson) when she descends into depression and alcoholism after procreation keeps evading them. Now Tom has remarried Anna, they have an infant girl and live together in the house where she used to live, that’s the excruciating sting she has to face on a daily basis, while she stays in her friends Cathy’s (Prepon) apartment and unbeknown to the latter, she had lost her job due to her drinking problem, which makes her train-commuting a habitual ritual to while away her aimless life, but there is one thing becomes the fulcrum of her attention, the young couple live nearby Tom and Anna’s house, whom she is able to glance twice a day from the train, for her, they represent everything she once had and yearns to have. Until, one day, a scene she witnesses shatters her fantasy, soon the young wife becomes a gone girl, only her blackout memory becomes the key to solve the murder.
The young girl is Megan (Bennett) and her hubby is Scott (Evans), and the happiness of their marriage only exits in Rachel’s imagination. From Megan’s past secret, to the chasm between her and Scott, till the trigger of her unfortunate doom, all concerns pregnancy and motherhood, along with Rachel’s self-inflicted misery, it becomes a motif too convenient to stand for women’s dismay and their marriage problems, frankly speaking, in the case of Megan, her own sense of naivety and promiscuity should also partially be responsible for her tragedy. As for Rachel, the story will eventually vindicate all her foibles, and pigeonhole her as an innocent being unwittingly victimized by a horrible horndog, she is completely blameless in the whole act, this stratagem tastes stale compared to GONE GIRL’s more forensic dissection into a couple’s marriage fissure and most of the time, it always takes two to tango. That’s the insight which the story inherently lacks.
Maybe the comparison isn’t fair in the first place because Taylor is not in the same bracket of Fincher as far as craftsmanship is concerned, the movie is uninspiringly enveloped by downcast environs where everything looks bleached and vague by a disheartening lighting strategy, even during its suspenseful switcheroo, it fails grandly to sustain a menacing vibe, in spite of all the narrative jumps and telling revelations, at best, it is a prosaic Hollywood assembly-line pablum.
But there is one silver lining which rescues this feature from plunging into that abyss, it is the cast, if the Theroux-Ferguson pair doesn’t turn out as book readers may expect in the final act, both Bennett and Evans imbues a leavening of pathos into their none-too sympathetic personae, but in the end of the day, it is Blunt’s heart-rending show-stopper becomes the saving grace, cosmetic-free, awfully scuzzy, hands-trembling, she convincingly enlivens a character who is stricken with anguish and consumed by alcoholic toxin, a beyond-repair damaged-goods ultimately exerts her vengeance in that one deadly strike, it is such a cliché, but because of Blunt’s superbly unwavering submersion into the character, the ending feels agreeably rewarding. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the mainstay (a sterling reception of the movie all across the board) which successfully propels Rosamund Pike into the Oscar foray, so it will be a greatly pleasant surprise if she can sneak into that ultra-tight race on the Oscar nomination night.