The Girl on the Train Review: Great Performances Lift The Movie


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EVERY day Rachel rides the train from a town in New York state into Manhattan, passing by the house of a “perfect couple” she spies on from her window in the third carriage.
One day, she looks out and she sees the woman, Megan, snuggled in the arms of another man. Rachel is devastated, overcome with betrayal.

Later that night, Megan disappears.

Rachel is a drunk. She’s volatile and completely broken. She has blackouts and is missing time, plagued by flashes of images — snippets of her actions, of a blonde woman in a red jacket.

To say any more would be giving away too many of the twists and turns.

Based on a best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train is the kind of mystery that’s structured in a way to leave a viewer hanging, confused until the last five minutes.

By telling the story through the perspectives of three women — one who blacks out, one with many secrets and one that’s been kept in the dark — means the audience never gets even close to a full picture.

In that way, it’s stayed true to its source material. But what has been lost in the translation from page to screen is much of the characterisation. With the exception of Megan, all the movie counterparts are thinly drawn and always out of grasp. It’s a shame.

Despite this, most of the performances are great, and lifts the movie to just above standard thriller fare.

Much has been made of whether Emily Blunt was the right actor to play the title character. Try as they did by smearing her make-up, painting dark circles under her eyes and covering her in a sweaty sheen, Blunt is probably still too classically beautiful to be completely convincing as a haggard, sloppy drunk.

Given her particular “disability” in this role, the commitment Blunt showed to her performance is commendable. The physical tics Blunt imbued the character — sometimes subtle, sometimes less so — add a dimension to the character that wasn’t actually in the writing.

Similarly, Haley Bennett is brilliant as Megan, pouring everything into emotionally charged scenes as she reveals, little by little, more of what’s behind her character’s loneliness and detachment.

Justin Theroux, Allison Janney and Rebecca Ferguson are also great, as is Lisa Kudrow in her five minutes on screen.

It’s not easy to adapt one of the most popular books in recent years and the challenge is even harder when the book is so densely layered and filled with unreliable narrators. There’s a lot of expectation attached to any such project.

Director Taylor Tate has made a fair go of it. Not everything he tried worked — the extreme close-ups designed to illustrate Rachel’s fractured mind only serves to displace the viewer.

The Girl on the Train isn’t going to blow your mind but there’s enough in it to enjoy a tense trip with some pretty strong performances.

Rating: 3/5

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