‘The Girl On The Train’ Should Have Stayed At The Station

At the time of its publication, The Girl on the Train was being compared to Gone Girl. As a film, people unfamiliar with the book watched the ads hoping or expecting more of the same. With the exception of “girl” in the title, Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ page-turning thriller offers neither the entertainment nor satisfaction that came from Gone Girl‘s serpentine mystery.

Erin Cressida Wilson, who penned the underappreciated darkly comedic Secretary, handles the adaptation about as delicately as a construction worker using a jackhammer. It starts out innocently enough with Rachel (Emily Blunt) providing narration as she looks longingly out a train window at a row of houses. The train makes a scheduled stop along its route each day, which allows her more time to watch the houses and faintly see any activity happening inside.

Now before you presume “Rear Window on the Rails” the story drifts from Rachel to Megan (Haley Bennett), a nanny that doesn’t have the stomach for babies or laundry. The reason is explained in due time, in some of the film’s most affecting moments, but its reveal feels a matter of convenience more than anything.


The plot and its incorporated twists also feel convenient, which should be no surprise: The Girl on the Train was a popular airplane read (something to be picked up at a terminal kiosk and read up in the skies – with or without your tray tables in their upright and locked positions). Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was similar in this respect. Both are mysteries with female protagonists who aren’t the most reliable of narrators. However, crack open Flynn’s mystery and it follows the normal story beats of most thrillers until it pulls a 180 as the police investigate the disappearance of a missing woman.

Rachel is a drunk; she disguises vodka in a clear, CamelBak-like wattle bottle and sips and sips and sips as the train rattles and hums. Emily Blunt throws herself into the role, and she is wonderful at playing a complex and deeply troubled woman. Ravaged by her drinking problem and often inebriated, Rachel drinks herself to blackout-intoxication, throws fits, and is prone to stalking.

All of this is the result of hitting rock bottom two years ago. Her husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), had an affair with their real estate agent, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). And what happens? He dumps Rachel, marries Anna, and has Anna move into the home he and Rachel purchased together.

Box Office Preview: ‘Girl On The Train’ Eyeing $27M Debut

The same house Rachel fixates on every morning and night as her train travels to and from the city. From her train seat she can see her ex-husband and his new wife and their baby. Rachel wanted to have Tom’s baby. Digressing about what should have been, Rachel also fixates on the house two doors down, home to knockout blonde Megan and her rugged husband Scott (Luke Evans). They seem so happy and perfect together. Living the idyllic life Rachel and Tom once had.

As the story flashes back six months, then four months, two months, and a few days – with some brief stops in the present – and switches viewpoints from Rachel to Megan to Anna, The Girl on the Train struggles to remain on the rails. Though Rachel’s arc is the core, it turns out that she isn’t the most disturbed character. There are dangerous liaisons and deceptions, and it all leads to a twisty, blood-curdling finale.

Rachel may be a wilted flower, but Emily Blunt does just enough to make us empathize with her as she struggles with booze. The same cannot be said for a talented ensemble, including Edgar Ramirez as a therapist and the always-great Allison Janney as a police detective. They are thinly drawn and seemingly fill a checklist of requirements when outlining secondary characters.


Blunt may be the acting MVP, but Haley Bennett deserves some praise. Her character, Megan, suffers a heartbreaking loss and it makes Rachel’s problems seem not as significant. As the plot breaks apart, like mirrored glass hit with a golf club (which does occur), and we get to the confrontation plus epilogue, The Girl on the Train inches to reach its destination as it stretches for credulity. Rachel, instead of torturing yourself as you take the train into the city, try an Uber next time.

Score: 5/10

Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson (based on the novel by Paula Hawkins)
Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney
Rating: Rated R (for violence, sexual content, language and nudity)
Running Time: 112 minutes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *