Thursday, October 06, 2016

A Drunk Emily Blunt Is THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, A Poor Man’s GONE GIRL

Opening today at a multiplex near you:


(Dir. Tate Taylor, 2016)

The set-up for this thriller based on Paula Hawkins’ 2012 British bestselling novel is sublimely simple. A young woman named Rachel, played by Emily Blunt, daydreams about the seemingly perfect life of a couple she’s never met that she watches from the window of her train on her daily commute to and from New York City.

We learn from her voice-over that Rachel used be married and lived a few houses down from the couple, but because of her raging alcoholism and inability to have a baby, her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) left her for another woman.

It starts getting complicated when we meet Megan and Anna, who, like Rachel, have their own voice-over narrations and chapter headings. Megan (Haley Bennett) is the woman of the couple Rachel has been watching, who just happens to be the nanny for Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the woman that Rachel’s husband left her for, and they now live in the house that Rachel used to live in with Tom.

On one fateful train ride, Rachel sees Megan kissing a man who’s not her husband on the porch of her home and it shatters Rachel’s world. Rachel gets even drunker than usual, which isn’t difficult because she carries around a Camelback thermos filled with vodka, and she gets off at the stop near the couple’s house and her old home. Rachel sees a blonde woman walking that she thinks is Anna (Megan and Anna resemble each other from a distance because of their long blonde hair) and she yells “slut!” at her and follows her into a pedestrian tunnel.

What happens next is the movie’s mystery as Rachel blacks out, and when she comes to back at her apartment the next morning, she’s covered in blood and has no memory as to what happened.

Turns out Megan has gone missing and Rachel is a suspect in her disappearance as she gathers from the Detective, played by a smirking, skeptical Allison Janney, who comes to question her.

Rachel becomes obsessed with what happened that night, and contacts Megan’s distraught husband Scott (Luke Evans) to tell him that she saw his wife with another man. That other man is revealed to be Megan’s therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Édgar Ramírez), who we see Megan trying to seduce in flashbacks.

The book was called “this year’s ‘Gone Girl’ by many critics, but the movie doesn’t have it in it to make the stylish statement that the movie adaptation GONE GIRL made so superbly. In over words, Tate Taylor is no David Fincher. The film is a poor man's GONE GIRL at best.

Yet, that’s not to say there isn’t style here, and there’s an unnerving tone present that underscores much of the film’s jittery energy. Much of it largely helped into shape by Blunt’s frazzled performance of the heartbroken mess that is Rachel, who spends the movie covered in layers of heavy, grey winter clothing (this helped to hide Blunt’s pregnancy during filming). Despite what we learn of Rachel’s past, and what we see of her questionable present, it’s hard not to feel for the woman, and hope she’s not guilty of murder.

As for the other woman, Bennett, who also appears in this season’s THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN re-imagining, makes an picturesque impression as the beautiful woman that you know doesn’t feel beautiful on the inside, while Ferguson is the most unattended to character here.

Unfortunately, the fluidity of the film’s first three thirds is replaced by a more routine and predictable wrap up, which we have to get through some blatant red herrings to get to.

Taylor, working from a screenplay adaptation of Hawkins’ book (which I haven’t read) by Erin Cressida Wilson (SECRETARY – yay!, MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN – boo!), has crafted a film that has the look and feel of a sophisticated, psychological thriller, but underneath lies a lot of familiar conventions, and tropes that Hitchcock, as well as devotees like De Palma have worn to death long ago.

The premise of not being able to trust yourself, or having trusted others too much is a compelling one, especially within a murder mystery in which one doesn’t know if they’re the murderer or not, but despite some intense imagery, and the somewhat intriguing inner monologues, I bet this material had a lot more impact on the page.

More later...

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