FlixChatter Review: The Girl on the Train (2016)

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When this project was first announced, I was hoping I’d finish the book by the time the film comes out. Well I didn’t get to the book, but I was still anticipating this one, largely for the female-driven story.

Comparison to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (which I reviewed almost exactly two years ago) is inevitable, given that both involve a missing person and is told from a female perspective with some mental, emotional turmoil. Reading the character descriptions in the novel, where the protagonist Rachel Watson is described as ‘not beautiful and can’t have kids,’ it seems that the stunning Emily Blunt, who’s actually pregnant with her second child during filming, doesn’t seem to fit the role. That said, I think Blunt did a terrific job in making Rachel a believable train wreck (pardon the pun). She rides the train every day and passes by the same neighborhood, a leafy, posh Hudson River Valley where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux).

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Rachel still can’t reconcile with her past and she drinks away the blues, filling up her plastic water bottle with booze whilst she voyeuristically watches Megan Hipwell from the train. In Rachel’s eyes, Megan lives the life she’s always dreamed of. A beautiful woman married to a handsome, rich guy who seems to love her, as they’re shown being constantly lovey–dovey. But one day, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man and she goes berserk. It’s as if something snaps in her and she somehow felt *betrayed* that Megan would stray.

Watching this film makes me want to pick up Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-selling novel, as surely there are tons of story/character nuances that are simply lost in a feature film. Certain internal things, such as the moment Rachel got upset by Megan’s infidelity, is conveyed visually by her lashing out in the bathroom of Grand Central Station. While her chronic drinking problem might’ve made her prone to destructive behavior, this scene made her seem like a deranged, violent person.

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Though the film did manage to keep me engrossed throughout, thanks largely to Blunt’s performance, the narrative feels disjointed. I don’t know if it’s meant to make the audience empathize with how the protagonist is feeling but it can be quite frustrating. Director Tate Taylor (who directed The Help with a multi-narrative plot) adapts the film from Erin Cressida Wilson‘s screenplay. Her last script was Men, Women & Children, which I wasn’t at all entertained by, though this one is far more watchable by comparison. I was rather skeptical when Taylor signed to do the film, as I was expecting someone more like David Fincher who made Gone Girl such a gripping and visceral film that’s also wildly entertaining. The Girl On The Train is a dark and somber tale, but the film itself could’ve been less drab.

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Performance-wise, I find it odd that we’ve got a British actress playing the protagonist when the filmmakers moved the story from London in the novel to NYC. She keeps her British accent throughout though it’s never clear where she’s actually from. In any case, Blunt approaches the role with razor sharp precision, not just by looking unglamorous but she also embodied Rachel’s tormented peace of mind. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Megan has the most screen time out of the supporting cast. I think she has some screen presence, but at times I find her scenes too melodramatic. Later we find out her life isn’t so dreamy after all, and she too has a dark past that haunts her, but yet I can’t find myself to sympathize with her. To be fair, none of the privileged people who love to indulge in their own misery is easy to root for.

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The rest of the characters are pretty much one dimensional. Rebecca Ferguson‘s good as Tom’s second wife Anna, but her acting skills seems underused here. Luke Evans is all rugged perfection as Megan’s husband Scott but he seems to be more eye-candy than anything. Another handsome actor, Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez, seems oddly cast here as Kamal Abdic, who’s from Serbia or Bosnia in the book, but he’s speaking Spanish in the film. Ramírez seems charismatic enough but his character is so boring it barely made any impact. I also have to mention Lisa Kudrow as Tom’s ex boss Amanda whose role is basically a cameo, but an important one.

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Lastly, there’s Tom the antagonist, who actually seems untrustworthy from the start. Initially, the only image of Rachel comes from his point of view and she’s portrayed as a truly unhinged woman with drunken, violent outbursts. I think Theroux a skilled actor but there’s not much to work with when he’s given a paper-thin character who’s more of a caricature douchebag than a menacing sociopath. I’d think in the novel there’s more to his character than presented here?

The reviews haven’t been kind for this, sounds like another case where the book is much more superior than its cinematic adaptation. The novel might be a ‘thriller that shocked the world,’ but I don’t think the film lives up to that. I do think it’s still worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Blunt who proves herself once again that she’s a versatile and skilled actress. The movie itself isn’t quite as thrilling as it could’ve been, though I wasn’t exactly bored by it. It works more as a psychological drama than a taut whodunit murder mystery.

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Have you seen ‘The Girl On The Train’? Well, what did YOU think?

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25 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Girl on the Train (2016)

  1. I keep hearing from those who’ve read the book that people seem to like the movie more if they haven’t read it. Some readers have gone (girl) to say they disliked most of the characters in the novel. I’ll likely wait on this.

    1. Yeah I think if you’ve read the book there’d be even less suspense. I actually enjoyed it n Emily is excellent, but overall it’s not all that thrilling. It’s perfectly fine to wait Michael.

  2. The reviews have definitely been tough. You know my affection for Emily Blunt. That automatically put this movie on my radar. But I’ve been a little less excited the more I’ve heard about it.

    1. Hey Keith! I’d say it’s still worth a look for miss Blunt who’s still excellent in this so-so adaptation. At least she got to show her chops while the talented Rebecca Ferguson is pretty underused here.

  3. “Thriller that shocked the world”, I always love these kind tag promotional tag lines, I’ve never heard of the book until the film version was announced. So I guess it shocked only certain parts of the world? Lol.

    Anyhoo, I might give this one a watch when it hits Netflix. This is the kind of material that only few talented filmmakers like Fincher can turn into a great film. Had Gone Girl been directed by someone else, I believe it would just be another TV movie of the week kind of film.

    1. Ahah yeah it’s a lofty promise to live up to. I think it’s a step up from a TV movie but it could’ve been more taut n suspenseful and less melodramatic.

  4. The book is no Gone Girl, it’s basically just an entertaining thriller with no depth, so I find it hard to believe the film could be worse or more simplistic. A shame that Chris Evans wasn’t cast as Tom and Jared as Megan’s husband as it would have made for far better and less obvious casting

    1. Ah I see, so the book seems as shallow as the film then. I mean seriously, the characters are so paper thin, even down to the protagonist! Yeah it’d have been interesting to see Evans as Tom and see him as a bad guy, and Leto has that devilish twinkle in his eye that’d make Scott unpredictable. Luke Evans seems nothing more than eye candy in this that barely makes a dent.

  5. I think we pretty much came to the exact same conclusion! The screenplay is clunky for sure but I don’t understand all the hate towards this. I also n ever really got the Gone Girl comparisons either, the books may be similar but the movies aren’t at all.

    Having said that, I too want to pick up the book as I found the story to be terrific.

    1. Hey Jordan! Glad you’ve seen this too. Yeah I don’t think it’s as bad as some critics made it out to be, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit though I wouldn’t say it’s a great adaptation. Well the Gone Girl comparison is more on the fact that it was a based on a thriller by a female author featuring a female protagonist but the story is indeed very different.

      1. oh i see, that comparison makes sense. I think it is unfair to compare the two movies though. I also enjoyed it, thought it said a lot about how addicts/alcoholics can be treated, especially by supposed loved ones. That was a big one for me

        1. Interesting how each person brings a certain perspective when they’re watching a film. I never looked at the addiction thing because it’s not something that immediately comes to me, y’know. But yeah I think it’s interesting how the support of people can have a major impact on alcoholics and people dealing w/ stress/mental issues. Certainly Rachel’s husband is NOT supportive and actually takes advantage of her alcoholism, what a jerk!

          1. Yeah, you’re right, it is interesting. I think the best movies get this sort of response, where everyone sees it different cos… well, we are all different!

            And as for the support of other people, that is a HUGE thing. I wouldn’t be here without my friends and family, I’d be dead. No kidding.

            And that husband was a jerk huh! That is why the final act took me back a bit, seeing someone take advantage of an alcoholic/addict just disgusted me

  6. One thing I’m curious to know is does this movie feel like it came straight from a paperback novel? Because sometimes I feel like successful book adaptations will make you completely forget where the source material is coming from, whereas the middle of the road adaptations really make you aware of where it came from. I felt this with Jack Reacher as the story and dialogue felt like it was ripped right from the pages. Gone Girl in a sense as well, though there was a little more mastery behind that.

    1. Hi Ian, interesting point of view there that successful adaptations would make you forget the source material. I never see it that way as I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen work and I’m always aware of her great writing when I’m watching the film, in fact I love it when they lift lines straight from the book. In any case, I haven’t read Girl on the Train before so I can’t speak from that perspective. Interesting POV though.

  7. I just have zero interest in seeing this; I’m honestly not sure why. Haley Bennett is the only aspect attracting me to this film…she was great in Magnificent Seven and Hardcore Henry. I’ll be curious to see where her career goes. Obvi, I love Blunt, but maaaaaaan I just don’t feel compelled to see this! Maybe the awkwardly placed Kanye song in the trailer turned me off haha 🙂

    1. Hi Courtney, hey fair enough. The main draw for me is Emily Blunt and she’s terrific. I like Haley in Magnificent Seven, in fact I’m about to post the review shortly. So that’s one Haley B. movie to another that I’m reviewing, ahah, though I had written the Magnificent Seven review before this one. I didn’t even notice the Kanye song, but then again I don’t think I’ve listened to a single Kanye song, not really my kind of music, ahah.

    1. Hi Allie, I’m curious how you’d feel about the movie since you’ve read the book. It’s not a bad movie but nothing to write home about really.

  8. Pingback: OCTOBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

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