Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Girl on the Train

(Tate Taylor, 2016)

When taking the train to and from Manhattan, Rachel (Emily Blunt) sees Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband at their home and imagines the idealized life they must have. One day on her commute in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, she catches Megan with what appears to be another man. Witnessing this sends her speculation reeling when Megan goes missing and is feared to be dead.

Rachel may have played an active role in the young woman’s disappearance, though. Her drinking is known to lead to blackouts, and she engages in stalker-like behavior with Megan’s nanny Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who is the woman Rachel’s ex-husband had an affair with and then married and had a child with. The more Rachel inserts herself into the case, the more her own motivations come into question.

The novel and film of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN have been positioned as successors to GONE GIRL, the lurid yarn also about a missing suburban wife. In both cases the comparison may be invited but isn’t earned. While GONE GIRL grooved on a sick and funny energy about it, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN aims for a strained seriousness that doesn’t fit with the rather ridiculous twists and turns the story takes. Despite the attempts to create unreliability with its primary character, the mystery never becomes particularly compelling. The nonlinear structure is the biggest hindrance, tossing out revelations and questioning what is known as director Tate Taylor is trying to organize it all for viewers to follow. The shifting perspectives out of the gate and slow ramp up to the investigation don’t help with putting the mystery in motion.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN falls flat as a whodunit but is intriguing, if spotty, in looking at the roles women are expected to play when of marriageable and childbearing ages. How they react when things don’t go according to plan, they don’t want to follow the script, or they find the dream unsatisfying are more fertile territory for the film to explore. The emotional undercurrents are more credible than the veers in the plot. For as sensational as the crime at the center is, Taylor nicely underplays moments, like the reveal of Rachel’s alcoholism, which is suggested before the evidence is shown. The problem is that THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is better in the margins than it is in the text.

Grade: C+

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