Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Girl on the Train

Following in the footsteps of recent cultural trends to adapt big selling novels to the big screen such as Gone Girl (2014) and Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), we have a film that embodies the vogue of female empowerment within the thriller genre.

Written by Paula Hawkins, adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Tate Taylor, the story revolves around the intertwining lives of three women - Rachel, Megan and Anna - who all encounter each other and how the men in their lives intersect.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic who travels the train everyday to New York City passing the old house she used to live in with her now ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).  Rachel is estranged and bitter towards this new union, as they have a newborn daughter, Evie, something Rachel and Tom were unable to have together.

This has driven Rachel to drink and she regularly calls the newlyweds to the point of prompting Anna to complain to police. Tom tries to be civil yet Rachel will not go away.  Two doors down lives Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott. Scott wants to start a family whilst Megan is reluctant to, this reluctance only becomes clearer the further along in the story we go.

From the outset, the question of family is prevalent. Rachel and Tom want a family they cannot prompting a separation, Tom has a family with Anna which drives Rachel crazy and their neighbour Scott would love to have a baby with Megan but she will not.

One day travelling to work, Rachel sees Megan embracing another man on her porch prompting her to confront Megan in a drunken rage one Friday night.  That same night Megan disappears leading to a missing person's investigation led by the feisty cynical Detective Riley (Alison Janney).

More twists and turns abound in the narrative as we learn the truth and full extent of Rachel's alcoholism, Tom's real character and why Megan goes missing.

Ultimately comparisons will be made with Gone Girl which is always unfair but it follows the same thread of all men are bad and women must bond together themes, whereas in Gone Girl, Ben Affleck's character was a shit he was outdone by the mad as a hatter Rosamund Pike. 

In this film, we have at the start three unsympathetic female characters, only when Rachel learns the truth of her relationship with Tom, do we gain sympathy because she has been mentally abused in contrast to the sad alcoholic at the film's outset.  This does not do credit to the work Blunt does at Rachel, her stirring downward spiral into the darkness of drink dependency is some of the best work she has ever done and rightly gained acclaim upon the film's release.

It is a shame that the rest of the film could not raise to her high standard of performance apart from Janney's all too brief cameo as Det. Riley, whose breakdown of the exposition towards Rachel after their first conversation is a fitting swipe at both the preposterousness of the plot and the melodramatic feel of the piece.

The gripping moments do not grip and when the real bad guy is revealed, it happens too swiftly and smacks of an 'of course it is' moment and the red herrings laid out for us such as Scott (Luke Evans) as an abusive husband who really just wants to start a family with the woman he loves is a herring does not hang out there long enough.

All in all the film could have been better if it focused on better performances rather than relying on a plot that must have gripped on the page but failed to grip on the screen.

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