Review of “The Girl on the Train”

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a broken woman. Her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux) ended badly after they were unable to conceive a baby and Rachel began treating the depression with alcohol. She would black out and Tom would tell her all the violent things she did. He began an affair with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) who he eventually married after divorcing Rachel. He and Anna have a six-month old named Evie. Rachel rides the commuter train into the city every day and is able to see her old house through the window. She also sees the house next door and makes up stories about the young couple living there. That is Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans). Rachel has seen them having sex through the big window of their house that faces the tracks and believes they are a perfect couple; but that isn’t the case as Megan is restless and doesn’t want to have a baby despite Scott’s wishes. Megan sees psychiatrist Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez) and tells him all her secrets and desires and how Scott is an emotional bully. On her daily commute, Rachel sees Megan on the porch in the arms of another man. Distraught, Rachel gets very drunk and plans on confronting Megan about the apparent infidelity. The next day, Rachel wakes up after blacking out, covered in blood and discovers Megan has gone missing. Is she responsible? What happened in the hours she can’t remember?

Based on a book by the same name, “The Girl on the Train” is a twisty, slow-burn thriller that had the potential of being a very good movie. It has lots of sex, infidelity, lies, misdirection and substance abuse and could have really kept the audience guessing about whodunit. Sadly, all the mystery of the mystery is exposed far too early and the story is strangely uninvolving despite being made very complicated and with a fairly large cast of characters.

The cast isn’t to blame for the shortcomings of “The Girl on the Train.” Emily Blunt’s Rachel is about as sad and pathetic as any character in any film I’ve ever seen. Her investment in the lives of Megan and Scott, two people she’s never met, is about the only thing holding her anywhere close to together. When she sees what she perceives as Megan’s betrayal of Scott it turns her into a member of the drunken morality police and marks her rock bottom. It is a performance that must have been taxing for Blunt as it required so much raw emotion, so much crying and at times so much naked honesty from the character. Blunt manages to make Rachel both annoyingly pathetic and someone you want to wrap up in a tight hug.

Rebecca Ferguson plays Anna, the “other woman,” like a creepy Stepford wife. She is all about raising her child and maintaining her home and anything that interferes with that is met with a look that implies she is plotting your death. Ferguson is kind of the heavy of the story for a while and is fairly easy to dislike. Her jealousy of Rachel doesn’t make her any more pleasant. For this character it is an effective performance.

Haley Bennett plays Megan like a bit of a spoiled child. Megan admits to being restless and she’s always comparing her life now to what it was like when she was 17 and living in a hunting cabin with her boyfriend. It is a pivotal part of the story that eventually leads to the tragic events that play out. Bennett, who bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence, has a smoldering sexuality that is a good match for the character. She looks both innocent and seductive at the same time. It’s a delicate balance that Bennett uses to her full advantage.

The rest of the cast is impressive as well. What doesn’t work in “The Girl on the Train” is the arm’s length way the story is told. I never felt invested in these characters. The story meanders, jumping back and forth in time, filling in backstory leading the audience up to the events of Megan’s disappearance and juxtaposing that with what’s going on in Rachel’s life as she’s trying to pull herself back together while also befriending Scott. The story becomes a tornado of information that is mixed together in a haphazard way. Perhaps the disjointed narrative made emotionally investing in these characters impossible or maybe the script didn’t stick closely enough to the book to give us the depth of feeling for the people we learn so much about. Whatever the reason, “The Girl on the Train” feels like a static display in a museum: All the information about the subject is in front of you but it lacks any life.

“The Girl on the Train” is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity. There are several brief sex scenes. The most graphic nudity is mostly backsides. All other body parts are imaginatively hidden. Violence is scattered but bloody. Foul language is also scattered.

“The Girl on the Train” is somewhat intriguing until a revelation from Rachel’s past mostly exposes who is responsible for Megan’s disappearance with about a half hour left in the film. After that, you’re just waiting on that character’s inevitable comeuppance. Watching the film from that point on makes it a bit annoying. Thrillers shouldn’t give you the real villain until much later. After all the information we are given about these five main characters, knowing who is responsible so early makes all that comes before it seems wasted. “The Girl on the Train” has the potential to be a mind-bendingly complicated and involving thriller but it seems to take the road most travelled from the train to the conclusion.

“The Girl on the Train” gets three disappointed stars out of five.

Number crunchers, joke slingers and reluctant power wielders are invading your local multiplex. I’ll see at least one of the following:

The Accountant—

Kevin Hart: What Now?—

Max Steel—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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