Movie Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

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DreamWorks/Universal Pictures

Though I was less than impressed with The Girl on the Train in book form, I like the talent associated with the movie, especially Emily Blunt, who plays Rachel, the titular character. So I went in with an open mind, but the last thing I expected was to be bored.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, here’s a spoiler-free version: a woman (Rachel) who takes a train every day becomes a voyeur of the lives of people who live along the train tracks. One day Rachel sees a young woman (Megan) kissing a man who’s not her husband, and then Megan goes missing afterward. Rachel is convinced what she saw is important to the investigation, and finagles her way into it as a helpful citizen. But wait—she’s a drunk and an extremely unreliable witness.

I tore through the book because Hawkins’s nonlinear and unreliable storytelling kept me constantly wondering what the heck was going on, despite my intense dislike of all the characters. They remain unlikable in the movie, even though Blunt, Haley Bennett as Megan, and Allison Janney as the investigating cop do good work. Rebecca Ferguson, a revelation in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, is criminally underused as Anna, the third narrator in the novel.

Some prominent details have been changed (mainly Rachel is in NY instead of London) or left out altogether, but the adaption, written by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), remains mostly faithful. Since I now know all the answers, it was hard for me to maintain interest. The story had lost its only hook: keeping me in the dark.

I sat next to a woman who hadn’t read the book, and it was clear from her vocal reactions she was really into the movie, especially the ending. So it might be a solid choice if you’re coming to it clean. Otherwise, it’s OK to miss this Train.

Nerd verdict: Take a different Train

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Lauren O'Brien
    October 7, 2016 at 8:59 am

    I’m going to see it only because: (1) You well know I read it long enough ago that I don’t remember it and (2) Allison Janney. Just found out she’s in it and I knew I was doomed to see it.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 9, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Oh, yeah, and that thing with that character in that one part was different. 🙂

  • Reply
    EIREGO
    October 7, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    I didn’t read the book though I vaguely recall the review you wrote about it. Still on the nightstand with a million others I’m going to get to eventually.

    In other words, I went into the film sans preconceived notions except a minimal recollection of the basic plot. I was a little annoyed, but didn’t hate it. I left questioning why there are so many film and tv shows with unlikable characters in the lead role. I don’t mean flawed people, mind you, I mean unlikable as humans. During the course of a tv series I can understand we should get to like these leads, but it only works if we as viewers are able to glimpse redeemable qualities in that first episode. I rarely do hang in there and give up before seeing more than a handful of episodes. With a film, I need to start rooting for the lead right away if I’m to hang on til the ending. While I sympathized with the role of Rachel (due to my love of actress Emily Blunt), I couldn’t help becoming a bit judge-y. It seemed like the only people I could relate to in this film were minor characters as played by Lisa Kudrow and Darren Goldstein (who plays Man In The Suit). I wish I’d seen your review of this prior to laying down the cash for a ticket.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 9, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      I like how you pay attention to the actors in small roles, too. Kudrow and Goldstein were two rare sympathetic characters in the movie.

  • Reply
    Stephen Buehler
    October 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I’m late to the game and ate only reading the book now.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 9, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Are you planning to see the movie after you finish the book?

  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    October 12, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Unlike whatever that other one was that apparently this one (movie had Ben Affleck) is like…crap, I can’t remember, this one interested me, but I haven’t picked it up. From some of the scenes in the trailer, I was afraid it might be a “gotcha” movie, and I totally can’t watch those (they scare the crap out of me). Think I might one day pick up the book, but I’ll likely skip the film. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 13, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Do you mean GONE GIRL? I think that’s a vastly superior book to TRAIN (the same goes for the movie versions), not that I’m saying you should read or watch one over the other. I understand why both books are so popular and they aren’t that much alike, only in very superficial ways.

      I’m the same way with scary films. I was only able to watch TRAIN because I knew what was coming, and I did my share of covering my eyes ahead of time!

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