Something about this story immediately drew me in. I dropped massive hints & got the book by Paula Hawkins for my birthday last February before devouring it, & it really is incredible. It was truly the first book I’d read in ages that I found impossible to put down, & so shocking that I actually found myself gasping out loud & thinking about way after I’d finished it. After I’d enjoyed the book so so much all I had to do was lay in anticipation for the film adaptation.
Spoiler: I have mixed feelings about the film.
The Girl on the Train follows Rachel, an alcoholic mess who’s only a shell of her former self. Still not over her ex-husband, her inability to have a child & her drinking problems she is unemployed & lives with a friend, but travels to & from the city on the train every day to keep up the pretence of her job. Every day her train stops at a signal outside her old house that she shared with her ex husband, & to avoid looking at it she’s taken to looking at the house two doors down, in which lives, in her opinion, the perfect couple. She watches them every day, twice a day, until the woman goes missing. Thinking she has information which could help find her, Rachel gets involved in the investigation.
Tate Taylor directs a screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, with Emily Blunt, Hayley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux & Luke Evans in the main cast. Taylor has previously directed the brilliant film The Help, also a book adaptation so I had high hopes for him.
In all honesty, the film was… underwhelming.
Emily Blunt is perfectly cast as the anti-heroine Rachel, & with the story’s setting being changed from London to New York for the film I think it was really important they at least kept the lead British which did prove to work very well. Blunt is stunning in this role, unrecognisable & completely committed. She’s a joy to watch, but it doesn’t really save the film.
The story is obviously harrowing, & a whole lot to take in. But where the book was full of suspense & intrigue that had me excited to turn the nest page, the film was draining. It was well acted, but they way the story was told was just a bit bland. Where it was supposed to be exciting, in it’s very genre ‘thrilling’ it was all just a little not thrilling.
I did however really like the way they revealed the way the ‘flashbacks’ actually happened. It was very clever in that the fake flashbacks were an insight into Rachel’s mind, & how she’d been manipulated to be guilty & ashamed which was a huge part of her downhill spiral. Seeing how she saw herself & then seeing her as the victim she actually was proved to be so effective at making the audience sympathise for Rachel & hate the person who did it to her.
I think the script was a big part of what let it down most. The dialogue wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t exciting – & there was absolutely no back story for any character other than the lead & her ex, & even then it was only the absolute minimum. All the characters are so intricate, but in the film they’re only used as plot pieces. Characters only appear when the story needs to progress, which gives no chance for backgrounds for any characters other than Rachel & Megan. This also means that really interesting characters like Detective Riley, played by Allison Janney, & Doctor Kamal Abdic played by Edgar Ramírez, get no exploration into who the they are beyond how they move the story onwards which is actually very sad.
The cinematography was up & down. At times it could be really shot really beautifully, like Megan’s flashback bathtub scene & the shots from the moving train. But there was one shot in particular that I think was on the balcony of the house, which looked like the camera man had stumbled but they left the shot in. It just looked really messy & I don’t understand how it could be intentional when the rest of the film was so solid.
I do think (kind of hope) that a lot of the story was lost in the editing, so I’d be interested to see if a directors cut would be any better.
Can we please talk about how bad Rebecca Fergason’s wig was? The naturally dark brunette actress wore a blonde wig to play the role of Anna & it was so bad. The parting was so far over & the hair was really wispy it just bothered me from the moment I saw it.
It wasn’t terrible. It told the story well, but it was a little what you see is what you get which is totally the opposite of what the book does. I wanted to love it but I just couldn’t.
If you haven’t read the book, you should enjoy the story. If you liked the book then the film does make you realise how brilliant a writer Paula Hawkins is, & it is worth seeing for the performances. Five stars to Emily Blunt for this one.