The Girl on the Train (2016)

The Girl on the Train has visions of being the next Gone Girl, but it swings and misses with such laborious laziness, that the end result is nothing more a super trashy soap opera with hackneyed dialogue and an A-list cast.

This new tortured suburban drama apes many of the narrative conventions of the excellent David Fincher film, but it lacks any of the style, cunning and restraint that elevated the source material beyond its limitations as airport fodder.

The Girl on the Train is nothing more than a amateurish Gone Girl doppelgänger, that fails to successfully replicate or reinvent any of the directorial, narrative or thematic choices that made the 2014 thriller feel so close to home and gripping.

Where is the cutting and ruthless dissection of modern marriage and fidelity? Where is the tongue-in-cheek humour and knowing winks to the audience? Where is the “Good Girl” monologue? Where is the media hysteria? And where the hell is my box cutter scene scored by pulsing Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross soundtrack?

Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a catastrophic alcoholic and divorcee, who spends her time fantasising about her neighbours sexual and romantic lives as she rides the train in and out of Manhattan.

Conveniently the Metro North commuter train comes to a halt right around her old home, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has now married his previous lover Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and has a child.

The train also passes the home of Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Hayley Bennett), who Rachel describes as the perfect couple. Rachel obsesses over this gorgeous girl next door and her seemingly perfect life, lamenting the time when she felt just as happy with Tom.

Rachel drinks. She rides the train. She fantasies. She drinks. We watch her drink. She spies on people. She drinks some more.

That is until she sees something that upsets her perfectly constructed, booze-conjured fantasy life and sets off to give Megan a piece of her mind. Which is conveniently interrupted by a black out during the film’s most important sequence.

Because, sloppily manufacturing tension is acceptable.

The film cashes in on Rachel’s rampant alcoholism as an unreliable narrator plot device, and the entire mystery hinges on her inebriated blackouts to cover up the truth of what went down on that one (poorly filmed) night.

The remainder of the film plods lifelessly along, and waits for a convenient time for Rachel to finally remember everything, right on time for its uninspired and heavily signposted twist. How convenient.

Tate Taylor simply isn’t David Fincher, and he’s delivered a thriller that has no notion of how to thrill. He paces the film much like its page-turning source material, but he also panders to the book’s audience rather than the audience sitting in front of him. Plot points move along briskly, but were given zero chance to connect with these people and get inside their heads.

It’s also hard to really empathise with sex-crazed rich white people who are as vapid as they are good looking. Basically put, in this universe all men are douchebags and all women are crazy. Every role, with the exception of Rachel is dullish and one-dimensional. Evans and Bennett are both photographed and treated like Calvin Klein models, because grief and domestic pain has never looked hotter.

The only reason this review isn’t rated any lower is thanks to Emily Blunt’s incredible performance that belongs in a far superior film. In the novel, Rachel has let herself go and is practically invisible to men, yet here Blunt shines as she always does. She proves one again her exceptional versatility as an actress, and her portrayal as a dipsomaniacal loser is worthy of viewership, but the praise stops there.

Ignore this film and go revisit Gone Girl instead.

 

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