Oh, David Fincher. This is all your fault.
The success of Fincher’s “Gone Girl” has made it sheik to put every bestselling thriller on the screen, thus the film adaptation of “The Girl on the Train.” While this massively popular book may be a hit with many readers, the film version is a boring and predictable mess that goes off the rails about thirty minutes in.
The movie is told from the perspective of three women, Rachel (Emily Blunt), Megan (Haley Bennett), and Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Anna is married to Tom (Justin Theroux), who used to be married to Rachel. Anna and Tom employ Megan, who lives a few houses down with her husband, Scott (Luke Evans), as their nanny.
Every single one of these characters is deeply flawed, but none of them approach Rachel’s level of crazy. She spends most of her days sucking down copious amounts of vodka while riding a train in and out of Manhattan just because the train track goes by her old house.
One of the biggest problems with “The Girl on the Train” is that it spends an hour trying to get you on Rachel’s side while watching her reach peak stalker levels. Her booze-filled blackouts cause her to forget huge chunks of time, which puts her square in the crosshairs of Detective Riley (Allison Janney) once Megan mysteriously disappears.
After Rachel goes missing, the movie becomes a bait and switch whodunnit that poses everyone as a suspect, most notably Megan’s psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez). There are flashbacks that begin with title cards, but there’s never any indication of when the flashback ends and they are used as lazy “ah ha” or “gotcha” moments.
The conclusion is a violent snooze that runs with the theory that two wrongs do indeed make a right. The screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson is clearly framing Rachel as some sort of misunderstood hero, but there is difficulty in rooting for her.
The biggest problem with “The Girl on the Train” is that it’s put together with a lack of creativity that is commonly reserved for late Friday night’s on Cinemax. When a screenplay is this straightforward and every twist is blatantly obvious, the director has to be imaginative enough to create suspense. Instead, director Tate Taylor’s pedestrian style makes an non-inventive script that much more boring.
The three male leads, Theroux, Evans, and Ramirez, are one note machinations only present to be crime suspects. They play the roles of oblivious idiot, raging hubby, and shoulder to cry on, leading to wooden, stiff performances from all of them.
It’s not so great for the women either. There’s a little depth to Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett’s roles, but only enough to almost make you care. Ferguson is a stay at home mom who is unable to watch her baby on her own, which isn’t exactly an endearing personality trait.
But the worst aspect of “The Girl on the Train” is how Bennett’s Megan is treated. She is nothing more than a crazed, over-sexed maniac that tries to pounce on every man that crosses her path. There’s some complexity to her, but it’s only used to create suspicion for others, not so she becomes a fully fleshed out character. By the time her past is revealed, it’s too late to care.
Thankfully, the Girl in “The Girl on the Train” is handled quite well by Emily Blunt. Her bloodshot eyes, boozy slurred speech, and drunken red cheeks make you pity her, even when she’s invading the privacy of others. The material does her no justice, but Blunt is giving this her all and naturally has the most to chew on of all the actors.
“The Girl on the Train” is divorcee revenge porn. Instead of fully embracing and reveling in disorder. There’s no way to be sure, but the creative team here probably wasn’t hoping for giggles.