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New Release Review - THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

An alcoholic attempts to recall her possible involvement in the disappearance of a young woman.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Starring: Haley Bennett, Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson, Laura Prepon, Alison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow



With Emily Blunt's portrayal of Rachel, we always feel like we're watching a drunk pretending to be sober, rather than a sober actor playing drunk. She's thoroughly convincing as an alcoholic. Unfortunately, so are the film's director, screenwriter and editor.



Following the success of David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's 'chic trash' page-turner Gone Girl, a scramble ensued to snap up the next big adult oriented thriller, and so we have director Tate Taylor's take on Paula Hawkins' bestseller The Girl on the Train, which relocates the novel's action from London to New York.

The girl in question is Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic who takes the train into Manhattan every morning and spends the day getting blotto before commuting back to the apartment she shares with an impossibly accommodating friend (Laura Prepon) in the evening. Rachel is obsessed to near stalker levels with Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans), the young couple who reside in a house along the rail line, and who seem to embody the perfect marriage. They also happen to be neighbours of Rachel's ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who have both endured harassment from Rachel since the breakup of her marriage.



When Rachel spots Megan in the arms of another man, she goes on a particularly intense bender, resulting in a drunken attempt to confront a blond woman who may be either Megan or Anna. The next morning, Rachel awakes bloodied and bruised, her hair crusted with vomit, and with no recollection of the previous night's events beyond a few blurry recollections. When the police arrive to inform Rachel she is a suspect in the disappearance of Megan, Rachel attempts to piece together the events of that fateful night.

Blunt is one of those actors who makes her profession look easy, and as such often fails to get the recognition she fully deserves. She's excellent here, the glue that holds together an otherwise near disastrous piece of filmmaking. Cinema has offered us dozens of bad portrayals of drunkenness, but Blunt's is one of the very best. With her portrayal of Rachel, we always feel like we're watching a drunk pretending to be sober, rather than a sober actor playing drunk. She's thoroughly convincing as an alcoholic. Unfortunately, so are the film's director, screenwriter and editor. This one's a mess.



From the off, Blunt's performance is undermined by voiceover narration that treats the audience with contempt, telling us Rachel's thoughts, as though we can't clearly read them on Blunt's expressive face. We feel as though the film is lecturing us, and this continues throughout the narrative.

Erin Cressida Wilson's script and Taylor's direction never allow us to become involved in the story; it simply unspools in front of our eyes, one revelation after another. The film gives us information only when it offers it to Rachel, so there's no opportunity for suspense here; no chance to fear for the protagonist, who never seems to be in any real danger, certainly not from the police, who bizarrely leave Rachel to her own devices despite considering her their prime suspect.



With so many flashbacks, we regularly find ourselves minutes into a scene before realising we're back in the present. A more visually astute filmmaker would find a simple way to avoid such confusion - a certain coloured piece of clothing worn by Rachel, or a different hairstyle. Just as confusing are the actions of the film's characters, who behave like idiots throughout. A failure to establish the timeline of Rachel's descent into alcoholism renders the film's big twist simply too hard to swallow.

It's a cliché to compare bad adult thrillers to Lifetime movies, but for all their faults, Lifetime movies understand storytelling, which can't be said for the people behind this stilted drama.

The Girl on the Train is in cinemas October 5th.






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