EMILY Blunt heads the cast in the anticipated adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel The Girl on the Train, which ends up as a bitterly disappointing piece that struggles to take off.
Alcoholic divorcee Rachel Watson (Blunt) takes the same train commute every day, travelling past the house of a young woman named Megan (Haley Bennett) whose lifestyle she resents as one she craves for. When she’s not concealing vodka into her water bottle and openly drinking , she also makes a habit of trying to get back in the life of her uninterested ex-husband (Justin Theroux), much to the concern of him and his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson) who see her as an obsessed stalker.
On one morning, Rachel notices something unusual about Megan from her balcony and later on, Megan is reported missing. Waking up bloodied, bruised and with no memory of what took place previously, Rachel suspects the worse. Enticing her way into the life of Megan’s husband (Luke Evans), her quest for the truth leads her to avenues that will spell out what has happened to Megan and exactly what part, if anything, Megan may have to do with it.
Coming not too far away from Gone Girl, another recent wildly successful book to get the Hollywood treatment, one went in hoping for a similar result to Fincher’s enjoyable feminine thriller piece. Instead its understandable to leave the film with a feeling in total contrast, thanks to the severely underwhelming effort to make this thriller anything impressive.
Having not read the book (the same method used with the inevitable comparison) it begs to be asked how weaker the adaptation would have been if such had been done, knowing what happened without the modest use of intrigue intact. Even with that, the ways in which we react are only mild and not strong enough in the way that make hearts pound faster than usual and thrillers succeed because of it.
The structure works at first at seeing Rachel as a broken woman at heart, living with her reluctant sister, struggling to accept that she was unable to have children and that her drunken behaviour resulted in the collapse of her marriage.
Blunt does a respectable performance and at times there are some solid moments with her role of the alcoholic who has lost everything and now finds herself possibly in the eyes of a viewer, a suspect in a potential murder case.
Observing scenes such as Rachel physically assaulting her husband in flashbacks show a character who is not one-dimensional, but when it comes to remembering the performance, it is overshadowed by how dull the film as a whole appears.
As the film progresses, it is clear that the film needs more than just a solid lead role and ultimately, the focus on that delves into areas that appear too conventionally. By the time the disappearance takes place, disillusionment has set in and the film then enters a phase which doesn’t increase push any further in terms of interest.
Thinly written characters dominate the screen with most characters occupying conventional roles that do not play as original or of much interest, such as the grieving husband and the lead detective (played by Alyson Janney). Too many of these types stop the film from becoming one that can succeed in part due to character arc, which in this case, does not really appeal.
The third act without giving too much away also plays as a bit of a letdown and somewhat cheap, due to offering something which strikes out as clichéd and not suited to what has been shown beforehand. With its key twist, rather than leaving one gasp in horror, it just plays out as long-winded, basic and atypical of the genre. Something suggested that with the buildup, we could have seen a plausible twist but unfortunately, delivering it is just as frustrating as the time spent getting there.
The problems this film has more than anything is that as a thriller, it does not act as gripping enough and as a drama, it does not play as interesting enough.
The flashback sequences also offer very little to the enjoyment phase. Watching Megan recount to her psychiatrist events from the past may deliver another bout of respectability in the path of Bennett’s performance. But again, watching above-average acting does not do enough to vouch for what we are seeing, which plays as too ordinary and at times, gratuitous in its use of nudity.
In fact, director Tate Taylor, a fine director of women in his civil rights drama The Help, may be capable of pulling out some fairly good acting but his attempt to often eroticise Bennet’s scenes play as too obvious in trying to obtain a reaction. The fact that this is Taylor’s first foray into the thriller genre does not mean it is entirely his fault because with the material on offer, a more experienced thriller director would also struggle to do an admirable job.
There is acting to appreciate somewhat but with the expectation suggesting something interesting, all The Girl on the Train succeeds in doing is disappointing due to its average and unappealing structure.