STARS: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett, Edgar Ramirez
DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor
Watching a film adaptation of a book you've read is different than if you were totally unfamiliar with the story. Since you know all the plot elements, you pretty much are just looking to see how true the film is to the source material. We can say that The Girl On The Train, starring Emily Blunt, is a lot more faithful to the best-selling book by Paula Hawkins than any of the married characters in the story are to each other, with a couple of notable exceptions.
Rachel is a lush of the first magnitude. A furtive alcoholic who blacks out and can't remember a thing about what she did the night before. In the book she's overweight and no longer terribly attractive. In the movie she's Emily Blunt. So there's the first change. They do a pretty good job of making her look haggard and stressed out, but she's still Emily Blunt. So who was going to put more butts in the seats--Melissa McCarthy or Ms. Blunt? The bottom line is still king.
Rachel drinks because of her divorce from Tom (Justin Theroux), who is now happily married to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). She got fired from her job due to her drinking, but rides the train everyday from the suburbs to Manhattan to keep up the appearance of still being gainfully employed. (In the book it's London--that's the second notable change.) Along the route Rachel passes a house where a happy looking couple are frequently observed getting frisky on their back balcony. She entertains fantasies about who they are and what they are like. One day while riding by she sees the woman in the arms of another man. Rachel is shocked and disillusioned. Then the woman, whose name is Megan (Haley Bennett), disappears. There is a police investigation. Megan's husband, Scott (Luke Evans), becomes a suspect. But who was the other man Rachel saw Megan with on the balcony? She's going to get to the bottom of it (before she bottoms out herself). It's the stuff that taut thrillers are made of.
Emily Blunt, surrounded by a cast of relative unknowns, turns in a gritty performance--one of her best. But as The Girl On The Train speeds toward its gotcha conclusion, much of the nuance of the characters in the novel is left at the station.
From my perspective, the best thing about The Girl On The Train is Tim's review. Well done, Timoteo! There's always a danger of turning off an audience when the main character is so unlikable. And Emily Blunt's character is definitely not someone you'd want to befriend. Until the very end when the wife of her ex husband's boss, played by Lisa Kudrow of "Friends" fame, reveals a shocking truth.
Quite honestly, I went to this film with the wrong attitude, convinced that it would never be as good as the book. And I was right. That's the second danger with making a movie from a hit novel. Author Paula Hawkins' best seller was such a literary blockbuster that expectations about the movie version were unrealistically high. Even though screenwriter, Erin Cressida Wilson, wrote one of my all-time spooky film favorites (Secretary with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal), many of the scenes in this thriller dragged on endlessly.
As I watched the final credits roll, I at least felt a frisson of recognition when I realized that the actor who played Emily Blunt's ex, Justin Theroux, is the current husband of Jennifer Aniston. My advice? Read the book and forget the movie...
Grade: C -