In recent years we’ve seen Emily Blunt warbling Stephen Sondheim’s rich “Into the Woods” score, riding a polar bear in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” and dressed as Princess Diana in the quirky rom com “Five-Year Engagement.” She’s done big budget action, sci fi, period dramas and now she adds Hitchcockian thriller to her list of conquered genres.
In the much-anticipated thriller “The Girl on the Train” she is Rachel a woman whose life has taken a downward dive since her divorce from Tom (Justin Theroux). Alcoholic, unemployed and despondent, she obsesses about Tom, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), his new girlfriend—and former mistress—and their new baby.
To pass the time on her extended Lost Weekend she drinks vodka and rides a commuter train from the suburbs into Manhattan, even though she lost her high paying PR jobs ages before. Sitting in the third car from the front affords her the perfect view of her favourite house. It’s the home of Megan and Scott Hipwell (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), a good looking couple with a seemingly perfect life to match their optimistic last name. “She’s everything I want to be,” says Rachel of Megan.
One afternoon as Rachel looks out the train window at the Hipwells she is enraged what she sees. A blur of booze later, she wakes up the next day, hungover and foggy, covered in bruises, to discover Megan has gone missing. Brain beating, blocking memories of the night before, she tries to piece together the events of the night before. Enter Mr. Hitchcock.
Based on the Paula Hawkins bestseller—11 million copies sold and counting—“The Girl on the Train” is not so much a psychological drama as much as it is a boozological one. Rachel is hammered for much of the first half of the film, making her an extremely unreliable narrator. What’s true and what’s not? That would involve giving away plot details that are best left unspoiled, but suffice to say that while there are ups and downs, they are more red herrings and misremembered clues filtered through a haze of booze. There are no “Gone Girl” flourishes here, just straightforward thriller elements banged together to point to an inevitable conclusion.
“Girl on the Train” has some elegant moments, and aspires to be an art house thriller/morality tale—no action, lots of internal dialogue—but to properly tell the story of infidelity and murder it should have embraced its down-and-dirty summertime beach reading origins.
Rising above the languid pacing and uneventful storyline is Blunt whose gut-wrenching, vanity-free performance carries the movie through its slow patches. She’s a raw nerve and if the movie had followed her lead and been just a bit more bleary eyed and blotchy, it may have been a more effective thriller.