The Girl on the Train
starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez and Lisa Kudrow
screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson
directed by Tate Taylor
Murder thriller based on the 2015 British novel by Paula Hawkins. I read the novel just a few months ago. I bought it because I was looking for a new book to read and the title plus the back cover blurb made me think that maybe it would be a gripping psychological thriller in the manner of the great Swedish Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (published in English in 2008). But the book wasn’t that. The book was a boring, poorly-written piece of shit. Basically, there was no story. Nothing remotely plausible, anyway. Paula Hawkins stretched a non-story to three or four hundred pages. It was disappointing to read in the cover burb that it was “already a major motion picture.” I wondered why anyone would bother to put such shit on film. Maybe an American studio had ambitions to re-craft it somewhat like Millennium. It failed.
Within seconds of starting I could tell that the story was re-set in America. The houses gave it away immediately. Setting it in America is an important point because it compromises our understanding of the main character, Rachel. Rachel is a woman fallen into depression, alcoholism and unemployment after her husband divorced her for a more fertile woman. In its original English context Rachel’s alcoholism fits into British binge-drinking culture and gives us greater understanding of why she is the way she is. But that insight is lost in the American setting.
Rachel pretends to commute to a fantasy job in the city each day and the commute takes her past her old house where he ex-husband now lives with his new wife and baby. Staring out the window, Rachel fantasizes about the lives of the people she sees. By chance she happens to discover a murder in one of the houses adjacent to the tracks, but no one believes her because she is a lying alcoholic. By the end of the film she is absolved and everyone wonders, “Oh, Rachel was right about everything all along.” Humpf.
I don’t care that Rachel was right all along because the plot is so programmatic, and her character is so unappealing that I have no sympathy for her. None at all.
The story doesn’t progress smoothly, but jumps around in a disjointed manner, exploring the lives of three women - Rachel, Anna (her ex-husband’s new wife), and the murder victim, Megan - over a period of time. An awkward combination of flashbacks is used to demonstrate the (meager) unwitting connections among the women. Danny Elfman’s score lulled me to sleep, so I did something I very rarely do - I skipped ahead in the movie. It was just under 2-hours and I was getting bored.
Don’t buy the book and don’t watch the film. Read Stieg Larsson instead.
“Anything is possible because I am not the girl I used to be."