The Girl on the Train | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Girl on the Train

Taylor Tate’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel makes an unsatisfying transition to the big screen

Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the Melodrama Express.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the Melodrama Express.
“I’m not the girl I used to be — I think people can see that on my face,” bemoans Rachel (Emily Blunt), whose daily routine is to ride the Metro North, sucking vodka from a water bottle, and peering into the lives of those who live near the tracks. She’s particularly obsessed with one young couple, who seem to epitomize Sexy Suburban Living, and with her former home nearby, where her ex-husband snuggles with his new wife and baby.

Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-seller The Girl on the Train leaves the station OK, but in time goes off the tracks. Much of the Rachel’s history and state of mind — is she even a reliable narrator? — doesn’t make the jump from book to screen. This renders Girl a 1990s-style potboiler thriller that collapses under its own silly plot twists and contrivances.

Like suddenly, the female half (Haley Bennett) of the sexy couple goes missing — after quitting her job as a nanny for Rachel’s ex (Justin Theroux) and the new missus (Rebecca Ferguson). Somehow this relates to Rachel’s alcoholic black-outs, and now she’s a suspect and an amateur detective and macking on the disappeared woman’s grumpy husband (Luke Evans) … and there goes the train.

The story skips around over a six-month period trying to flesh out the mystery, but it unfolds rather languidly. (We watch Blunt cry a lot, and maybe she knows this film is beneath her.) Honestly, there are so few characters in this story that simple math will lead folks to the obvious conclusion.

It doesn’t pay to think too deeply about this sort of ready-for-cable fare, but it’s fair to say the film triples-down on its portrayal of women who are made mad by motherhood (or lack thereof) and/or are consumed by unmet sexual desires; this leads to lives of crippling deception and self-medicating with booze. This could have been a critique, but it plays out like the laziest trope in an overheated, retrograde melodrama. Leave it to the ex-husband to helpfully sum it up: “What is it with you crazy women?” I dunno — maybe getting stereotyped as hysterical nutjobs in crappy movies?

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