"The Girl on the Train" is one of those books that everyone calls a "beach read." Your brain doesn't have to be 100 percent invested in what's happening and the mystery is just fascinating enough to keep you turning the pages long after it's time for bed.
"The Girl on the Train" tells the story of three women. The first is Rachel Watson, an alcoholic woman slowly circling the drain as she reaches her rock bottom. After her husband cheated on her and left her for their realtor, she lost her job and fell deeper into the bottle. She used to commute from the New York suburbs into Manhattan for her job each day, but still rides the train anyway as she likes looking at a mysterious married couple whose house is along the tracks.
The second is Megan Hipwell, the married woman who lives by the train tracks. She's bored and listless; she's looking for something to give her life meaning that isn't her husband Scott or starting a family.
The third woman is Anna Watson, Rachel's ex-husband's new wife who has a young infant.
Rachel wakes one morning after a particularly drunken bender covered in blood with only the fragment of a memory of seeing Megan and yelling at her the night before. Now Megan is missing and Rachel has to piece together the missing hours, for her own sanity and to discover whether she has it in her to be a murderer.
The book builds on this mystery very nicely, making all three women sympathetic and flawed, while putting them in a situation intense enough to warrant the label of "page-turner." When the killer is revealed and the final, bloody confrontation ensues, it feels like the perfect payoff to the character-driven story that came before.
Emily Blunt is astounding as Rachel. She brings such a broken and haunted depression to Rachel that even when she's being her belligerent worst, the audience empathizes with her situation. Blunt looks haggard and dirty the entire film, crafting a performance without ego that also avoids the trappings of being showy awards bait.
Still, the film doesn't do her character and performance justice. The script by Erin Cressida Williams follows the book quite closely other than changing the location from the UK to New York and shrinking and expanding some of the roles from the novel. The effect of this is to create no real surprise for people who also read the novel. Everything happens just as it plays out in the book, leaving those familiar with the written version just waiting for certain plot points to happen instead of being sucked into the story.
Director Tate Taylor is great with the actors and setting the tone, but fails miserably with tension. When the killer is revealed and the final fight occurs, it's so muted as to feel inevitable more than shocking. The film builds nicely just like the novel does, but ends with as much impact as the air being slowly let out of a balloon.
If you enjoyed the novel and want to see how great actors breathe life into the characters, then go for it, but as a thriller it just doesn't work. There's nothing thrilling, no intensity and (performances aside) just feels like a way to kill a few hours. If that's all you're after, read the book instead.
"The Girl On the Train"
Dir. Tate Taylor
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX