Based on the 2015 bestselling novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train in question is Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a lonely alcoholic who frequently commutes by train from her home in Ardsley-on-Hudson to New York City. She likes to stare out the train window and fantasises an attractive young couple Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), in which she often find them standing on the balcony of their suburban home. Then one day, she catches the woman kissing another man (Edgar Ramirez) on the balcony. Things get worse from there when Megan is found missing…
When Paula Hawkins’s novel The Girl on the Train debuted last year to runaway success, it was often compared to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, another bestseller that later became a successful 2014 movie adaptation directed by David Fincher. So, it comes to no surprise that Tate Taylor’s adaptation of The Girl on the Train is marketed as a Gone Girl-like psychological thriller. Whereas David Fincher’s Gone Girl offers a stylish mix of lurid murder mystery and bleak social satire, Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train is more of psychodrama in the vein of Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction (1987) with a dash of Brian De Palma-like pulpy narrative pattern.
Taylor, whose previous directing credits including The Help (2011) and Get on Up (2014), seems like an odd choice to helm a twisty thriller like The Girl on the Train. His direction, at best, is serviceable and he’s hardly the kind of accomplished visual stylist that has the similar capacity like David Fincher or Brian De Palma (during his heyday, of course). This is particularly evident during a key scene in the tunnel, in which Taylor uses lots of slow-motion to haphazard effect.
Not to mention The Girl on the Train also feels laborious where Erin Cressida Wilson’s adapted screenplay is both patchy and at times, overly melodramatic throughout the course of a nearly two-hour running time. The cast, in the meantime, is a mixed bag. While it’s nice to see someone like Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow in the supporting roles, it’s a pity they are given little rooms to shine.
However, not everything derails in this movie. Although Taylor’s direction lacks a certain stylistic verve to stand out his thriller movie, he manages to overcome some of the flaws by able to juggle The Girl on the Train‘s multiple timelines and tricky narrative structure told in different point-of-views (Emily Blunt’s Rachel, Haley Bennett’s Megan and Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna). No doubt the non-linear narrative approach might confuse those who have a short attention span, but the intertwined storyline proves to be interesting enough as a whodunit.
The Girl on the Train is also largely saved by Emily Blunt’s solid performance as a boozy and emotionally unstable Rachel. Then there is Haley Bennett, a fast-rising star who already appeared in this year’s Hardcore Henry and The Magnificent Seven. But this is a role that best described as her true Hollywood breakthrough. Her come-hither role as Megan is spot-on. Some of the other supporting cast help anchored strong supports as well, with kudos go to Justin Theroux as Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, Rebecca Ferguson as Tom’s former mistress-turned-wife Anna, Luke Evans as Megan’s husband Scott and Edgar Ramirez as Megan’s psychiatrist Kamal Abdic.
The climactic finale, which I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you here, is definitely worth the wait once the truth is revealed. Let’s just say it doesn’t end pretty that has a shocking burst of violence.