Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Girl on the Train (2016)

Film: The Girl on the Train (2016)
Stars: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney
Director: Tate Taylor
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

I am sitting in front of my computer right now, staring at the daunting task of reviewing almost two dozen movies that I'm wildly behind on, wondering how I can possibly have so many thoughts on so many films, but we're going to start with the picture I saw on Thursday, as while it's not the freshest (please-like I'd go a weekend without catching at least one movie), it's the one that I clicked on first and is still pushing around in the old noggin quite a bit.  After all, The Girl on the Train is that rare conundrum for a critic-poor movie, great performance-how do you judge?

(Spoilers Ahead) The film, based on Paula Hawkins bestseller, is about Rachel Watson (Blunt), a woman who spends her days taking the train from upstate New York down to Manhattan, during which time she repeatedly gets drunk and fantasizes about the lives of two people who live near her old house, Megan (Bennett) and Scott (Evans).  She wonders how their life can be so perfect, and frequently peers in, thinking about her own failed marriage to Tom (Theroux) who is now wed to the woman he had an affair with, Anna (Ferguson).  One day, Megan goes missing coincidentally the same night that Rachel was on a bender, and we see her become a key suspect in the disappearance and eventual death of Megan, and she spends most of the film trying to figure out what happened that night.

The film has so many connections to Gone Girl it's hard not to draw comparisons, which is not a favorable situation for Train as Fincher's film is vastly superior.  Both films are largely reliant on an unreliable narrator, in one case it's Amazing Amy who is actually much more complicated than she initially appears, and in this case we have Rachel who remembers inaccurately her marriage to Tom, assuming she was an abusive drunk when in reality he was a nightmare and an abuser who was gaslighting her most of their marriage.  It's a twist, though, that's relatively easy to see coming as is most of the film based on the underlined plot points and camera angles (seriously-if we see Megan having sex with a man in the woods, but we don't see the man's face-we all notice that and guess it's another guy in the movie than we assume...and since the only other guy other than her husband and therapist is Tom, we know the twist miles ahead).  Overall it's easy to see why this was a hit novel-it's a quintessential flashy beach read, and I suspect that was the appeal, but in translation to the film it comes across poorly.  The acting (with one exception) is largely absent any feeling-Ferguson and Theroux, both very good actors in other works, are not connecting with their roles, perhaps because the script doesn't really care about them as anything other than easy props in Rachel's world, and Bennett underplays Megan's big scenes.  There are exceptions (Janney and Kudrow are always welcome presences, even if these are thankless roles), but by-and-large most of the players here are saddled with a potboiler that boils too quickly.

That is except Emily Blunt.  Blunt is an actress I'm not always wild about-I feel like she under-emotes in certain roles and has never properly lived up to her potential from The Devil Wears Prada, even in work that I've enjoyed.  This is the exception-this is easily her best performance in a decade, and she is very attuned to her character.  It's perhaps a problem that she's so good-it points out how much the rest of the cast is phoning it in-but Blunt clearly knows what's at stake in her career with such a high profile vehicle.  She makes Rachel believable, a woman who clearly once had it together, but saddled with issues of infertility and an abusive husband, she finds solace in the loneliness of the bottle.  Most of the movie I felt agog at how well she was playing the part, particularly when she's selling scenes that the plot doesn't feel like the film's earned (the entire finale feels deeply anti-climactic since we've seen it coming for over an hour, a bad look for a thriller), and certain touches (like the way that she drunkenly talks to the baby on the train or the way that she over-pronounces specific words when talking about Megan, as if reenacting a soap opera) are genius. It's likely not going to push her into Oscar contention (the reviews are too poor), but I'd wager she should be in that conversation.

Those are my thoughts on this underwhelming film, one I'd only suggest if you are a big fan of Blunt.  Share yours now-if you have read the book, how does it compare?  What do you hope to see next from Blunt after such a major wave?  And why do you think the supporting cast couldn't make this jive?  Share below!

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