The Girl on the Train is the story of Rachel Watson's life post-divorce. Every day, she takes the train in to work in New York, and every day the train passes by her old house. The house she lived in with her husband, who still lives there, with his new wife and child. As she attempts to not focus on her pain, she starts watching a couple who live a few houses down -- Megan and Scott Hipwell. She creates a wonderful dream life for them in her head, about how they are a perfect happy family. And then one day, as the train passes, she sees something shocking, filling her with rage. The next day, she wakes up with a horrible hangover, various wounds and bruises, and no memory of the night before. She has only a feeling: something bad happened. Then come the TV reports: Megan Hipwell is missing. Rachel becomes invested in the case and trying to find out what happened to Megan, where she is, and what exactly she herself was up to that same night Megan went missing.
The inside of the Metro-North train cars is not accurate. See more »
My husband used to tell me I have an overactive imagination. I can't help it. I mean, haven't you ever been on a train and wondered about the lives of the people who live near the tracks? The lives you've never lived. These are things I want to know. Twice a day, I sit in the third car from the front where I have the perfect view into my favorite house: Number 15, Beckette Road.
[Rachel sees a woman on her back porch in the morning]
I don't know when exactly, I suppose I ...
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You won't uncork a bottle of Malbec again without thinking of this film...
"The Girl on a Train" is the film adaptation of the best-seller by Paula Hawkins, transported from the London suburbs to New York's Hastings-on- Hudson.
It's actually rather a sordid story encompassing as it does alcoholism, murder, marital strife, deceit, sexual frustration, an historical tragedy and lashings and lashings of violence. Emily Blunt ("Sicario", "Edge of Tomorrow") plays Rachel, a divorcée with an alcohol problem who escapes into an obsessive fantasy each day as she passes her former neighbourhood on her commute into the city. Ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux, "Zoolander 2") lives in her old house with his second wife Anna (Rebecca "MI:5" Ferguson) and new baby Evie. But her real fantasy rests with cheerleader- style young neighbour Megan (Haley Bennett) who is actually locked in a frustratingly child-free marriage (frustrating for him at least) with the controlling and unpredictable Scott (Luke Evans, "The Hobbit"). A sixth party in this complex network is Megan's psychiatrist Dr Kamal Abdic (Édgar Ramírez, "Joy").
In pure Hitchcockian style Megan witnesses mere glimpses of events from her twice-daily train and from these pieces together stories that suitably feed her psychosis. When 'shit gets real' and a key character goes missing, Megan surfaces her suspicions and obsessions to the police investigation (led by Detective Riley, the ever-excellent Allison Janney from "The West Wing") and promptly makes herself suspect number one.
Readers of the book will already be aware of the twists and turns of the story, so will watch the film from a different perspective than I did. (Despite my best intentions I never managed to read the book first).
First up, you would have to say that Emily Blunt's performance is outstanding in an extremely challenging acting role. Every nuance of shame, confusion, grief, fear, doubt and anger is beautifully enacted: it would not be a surprise to see her gain her first Oscar nomination for this. All the other lead roles are also delivered with great professionalism, with Haley Bennett (a busy month for her, with "The Magnificent Seven" also out) being impressive and Rebecca Ferguson, one of my favourite current actresses, delivering another measured and delicate performance.
The supporting roles are also effective, with Darren Goldstein as the somewhat creepy "man in the suit" and "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow popping up in an effective and pivotal role. The Screen Guild Awards have an excellent category for an Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture, and it feels appropriate to nominate this cast for that award.
So it's a blockbuster book with a roller-coaster story and a stellar cast, so what could go wrong? Well, something for sure. This is a case in point where I suspect it is easier to slowly peel back Rachel's lost memory with pages and imagination than it is with dodgy fuzzy images on a big screen. Although the film comes in at only 112 minutes, the pacing in places is too slow (the screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson takes its time) and director Tate Taylor ("The Help") is no Hitchcock, or indeed a David Fincher (since the film has strong similarities to last year's "Gone Girl": when the action does happen it lacks style, with the violence being on the brutal side and leaving little to the imagination.
It's by no means a bad film, and worth seeing for the acting performances alone. But it's not a film I think that will trouble my top 10 for the year.
(Agree? Disagree? For the graphical version of this review and to comment please visit bob-the-movie-man.com. Thanks.)
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