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The Girl on the Train is based on the novel by Paula Hawkins. Called the “fastest selling novel in history” according to blurbs on the book jacket of the book that inspired the film, it promises to be a terrific thriller.
Let’s be clear, though, if that statement is even true and the book was, in fact, the fastest selling novel of all time, it owes that success almost entirely to Gone Girl, the 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn and the hit 2014 Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck adapation.
The Girl on the Train has hitched its… car… to Gone Girl in such an obvious manner that the film (and book) will forever be compared to the earlier work.
That is to its detriment, I think.
The Girl on the Train features some great performances. Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson (unrecognizable from her Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol turn) are terrific, though Bennett’s Megan is almost entirely irredeemable. Justin Theroux and Luke Evans are excellent as well and I simply love Allison Janney.
Emily Blunt is characteristically excellent as Rachel, the eponymous girl on the train. Blackout alcoholic dealing with demons and a past that holds her in a vice-like grip, Blunt’s Rachel is more than lost, she’s actively nihilistic. Blunt embraces how unappealing this character is and that, in-and-of-itself, is a challenge for the film. If the audience is intended to root for Rachel (and, perhaps, the audience is not), that is a tall hill to climb. Damaged and self-destructive, Rachel is potentially dangerous as well.
I understand that’s the crux of the movie and the central conceit of this thriller: is Rachel destructive enough to have committed murder?
Here’s the problem (and I don’t think it’s a spoiler because, hey, thrillers exist on their twists, don’t they? It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the movie has a twist): the revelation in the third act of the film comes from so far out of left field that I found myself saying “that’s the big twist? Where did that come from?”
Not only was I unprepared for the twist, I felt there was no supporting logic for it in the movie. Because of that, the entire film fell apart.
The Girl on the Train has atmosphere. It has a great cast. It’s well directed. It has some good moments. But, in the end, the conclusion is far less than the sum of the parts of the movie. I wanted to love it. And, though every fault of the publicity surrounding the movie and very little fault of my own, I wanted to have a Gone Girl like experience.
Instead I had a Lifetime movie like experience.
There’s nothing wrong with Lifetime movie experiences.
Unless you’re expecting Gone Girl.
The Girl on the Train receives TWO VODKA FILLED WATER BOTTLES out of a possible FIVE.