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The Girl on the Train - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Girl on the Train
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

Here's another movie that is difficult to separate from the massively popular novel on which it's based, like Gone Girl or, as much as I hate to bring it up, even Fifty Shades of Grey. Huge swaths of its viewing audience is coming with the novel in mind, ready to make comparisons, and to be disappointed. By all accounts, plenty of people have been disappointed by this film.

I wasn't. As with those other films, I haven't read the novel so I have only the film to judge on its own merits -- which is how a film should be judged anyway. That doesn't mean The Girl on the Train is great, either. But it's a workable thriller with at least one great performance in Emily Blunt.

Blunt does "drunk commuter" rather well. Rachel takes the train from upstate New York into New York City and back every day, passing by the house where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) lives with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their new baby. The baby that Rachel had been unable to conceive, thereby beginning her binge drinking. She's sucking down vodka in sippy bottles on the train every day.

But she's also obsessed with this couple in a house two doors down from the one she used to live in. Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) have all the appearance of a couple with "the kind of love people only dream of," as Rachel puts it. Rachel might be on to something there. But then one day she sees Megan on the back balcony of her house, kissing a different man -- a man who turns out to be her therapist (Edgar Ramírez). Rachel, having only this passing glimpse to go on, makes a lot of fairly wild assumptions. Which I suppose one might do when they're wasted.

But then Megan turns up dead, and we're left to wonder who killed her -- and Rachel herself doesn't know what responsibility she might have in it because of her blackouts. This is indeed a scary idea and makes for a good amount of tension in the film, especially considering some of the behaviors Rachel seems to have while drunk, not least of which is once walking right into her old home and picking up the baby that isn't hers. Rachel is beyond fucked up is the point, but in exactly what way is the mystery. We want to root for her but it's an uncomfortable thing to do.

By the time Rachel has introduced herself to Scott, lying about being a friend of Megan's, she's gotten herself far too deep into this for her own good -- her reputation as a drunk doing her no favors with the detective (Allison Janney, always fun to see) investigating Megan's disappearance.

The fact that Megan also worked as a nanny for Tom and Anna is just the tip of the iceberg as far as how complicated the plot gets, and yet -- The Girl on the Train is surprisingly predictable. I never actively work at figuring out who the murderer is in mysteries like this, and yet I realized who it had to be plenty early before it was explicitly revealed. This is clearly meant to be a mystery, and in the end it's robbed of any. There's not much of a mystery to be had here, in which case a valid question would be, what's the point?

Well, there's this: Emily Blunt's performance is excellent, and lack of mystery notwithstanding, the story is compelling from beginning to end. I know plenty of people who would declare this movie stupid but would nevertheless keep watching. This story, flawed as it is, still has a hook, and keeps you in it. The very end is slightly gruesome, which is maybe the only real surprise. In any event, The Girl on the Train falls short on the promise of mystery but it delivers on its promise of a fun evening out at the movies.

Emily Blunt is the drunk who is THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Overall: B
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