The Girl on the Train (2016) Movie Review
Erin Cressida Wilson
Whenever a bestselling novel (that I’ve read) gets turned into a movie, I do my best to separate them, knowing the two are vastly different animals and there are certain things you can do in a novel that you can’t do in movie, and vice versa. I rarely whine like *does little whiny voice* “They didn’t have this character or that character didn’t do this or wasn’t wearing that or they cut this part out or they didn’t say this line or this house for whatever reason didn’t match the picture I had in my head…” or _________ (insert whatever ineffectual crying you’ve heard/done yourself).
However, when they announced that 2015s thriller of the year Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on The Train was being made and cast Emily Blunt in the lead, I thought it made sense.
What didn’t make sense was the choice of director Tate Taylor, whose first film, the Lifetime movie that groups of single/really old women see at 3 in the afternoon, The Help caused me to roll my eyes out of my head. The more I think about it, the more I hate it (a movie chock full of magical negros yet a lone white girl saves them all, and that fecal pie joke really isn’t funny, especially if you repeat it a bunch of times).
Could someone who made such a pandering, made-for-TV movie handle a taut thriller with shifting timelines, points of view, and motivations, especially with not a magic negro character to be seen?
Short answer: Yes. As The Girl on the Train is one of the best thrillers of the year, and should satisfy fans of the books who don’t throw a fit about some of the minor but noticeable differences in the film adaptation.
I told my wife after we saw it, “I’ve never seen a movie match the movie I saw in my head so well.” I also told my wife about the time my mother threw me from a train.
Like the story Train is most compared to, Gone Girl, the less you know about the intricacies of the plot, the better.
Now I’m going to tell you everything about the story, including the multiple twists and the game changing climax that made a pregnant man in the audience give birth while the credits rolled. He gave birth to a happy and healthy litter of puppies and tried to give one to me but I refused.
Rachel (a beautifully unhinged Emily Blunt) rides a train. A lot.
Rachel likes to observe. She sees the people from the train and makes up stories about them.
Rachel is also a drunkard. Not just white girl wasted, but actually wasted. From the train, she looks at her old house where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux, therouxly shifty) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) live with their newborn Evie (Samuel L. Jackson)
Anna and Tom got married after they were having illicit sexual relations behind Rachel’s back. That must sting.
Tom and Anna have a blonde nanny Megan (Haley Bennett) who lives a couple of doors down. Rachel also sees Megan from the train as she canoodles with her husband Scott (Luke “I Am Your Father” Evans).
Rachel has a history of being the crazy ex, such as taking little baby Evie from her own house just to “hold” her. I hear mothers don’t like it when you just up and take their baby. She also may be leaving Tom kooky texts and drunk dialing him then hanging up. Clearly, this girl has a train of issues.
One day Rachel sees Megan getting cozy with a man…not her husband. So of course she has to insert herself into the narrative, because if there’s one thing that drunk people are good at, it’s making timely decisions that hurt no one at all.
Later she learns that Megan is missing. And she might have been one of the last people to see her. Thank goodness drunk people have perfect recollection and judgment.
To reveal anything more would be delving into super-spoiler territory and you’ll have to see for yourself the scene where Megan rides a horse or when Rachel rides 2 horses or when Tom (this isn’t even in the movie) adopts a little boy from Thailand.
I’ve written too much. Just go see the movie before I ride 3 horses and adopt a little boy from the Netherlands and Samuel L. Jackson.
What Works with The Girl on the Train - but Since she Spends Most of the Time in the car, Shouldn’t it be The Girl in the Train?
Honestly, I don’t really care unless it was called Girl Train because then I’d think it was a train just made of girls but then again, I would see a movie about a train made of girls.
- Emily Blunt’s greatest performance ever. Yes, even better than her performing No Diggity on Lip Sync Battle. I wasn’t sure when she was first cast if she could pull off a role this extreme as nothing she’s done before would lead me to believe so, but if you’re going to nominate (deservedly) Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl, it’d only be fair to nominate Blunt in Train Girl.
- Haley Bennett stole scenes from the boys in last month’s The Magnificent Seven. She now steals scenes from the girls, playing a femme fatale with more dimensions and empathy than you might expect.
- Tate Taylor (now forgiven for The Help) and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson perfectly capture the experience of reading the novel into something wholly cinematic. As I said, it should satisfy fans of the novel, and more impressively, make those who haven’t read it want to read the book. It should also make you want to ride more trains.
- I remember reading this novel to a bunch of inner city children and after the reading some of them thanked me. The ones than didn’t thank me got pulled over by the cops and killed. I’d like to think that as they were getting shot I provided them with some happy memories from an excellent thriller.
What Doesn’t Work with The Girl on the Train
- In a story with 3 sharply defined main female characters (even the supporting turns are well drawn, from Allison Janney‘s super detective, to Laura Prepon‘s super roommate), it’s oddly refreshing to see the male characters reduced to one-dimensional cutouts (vaguely suggestive doctor, angry husband, angry possibly cheating husband). If this is progress, so be it.
You’ll really enjoy riding this Girl on the Train.