Movie review: Blunt’s performance carries ‘The Girl on the Train’
–Loneliness can be a powerful emotion. There’s so much going on in our world today, yet many feel lost and isolated, craving connection. Sometimes that need for connection can take you to dark places.
That’s some of what I thought of when watching “The Girl on the Train,” a new film that opened on October 7. Based on the novel from Paula Hawkins, we get a story seen through the lens of three different women — each of whom feels lonely and isolated in their own way.
It’s a dark and twisty tale, one that’s meant to leave you guessing to the end of the film. All that works okay, but it’s Emily Blunt’s performance in the lead role that really helps the film have bite.
“The Girl on the Train” begins with three points of view. First we meet Rachel (Blunt), who is desperately lonely and a full blown alcoholic. Each day she rides the train and looks longingly at the houses in her old neighborhood, especially one house where she imagines a beautiful life for the couple inside. She doesn’t have a job or much going on, and instead she sinks deeper into her own problems.
Rachel can’t let go of her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), who she’s romanticized as a great man while remembering all his short-comings. Tom is now married to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who just had a child. She loves Tom and their life, but she’s wary of Rachel. And she feels isolated and alone in her own way, chained to her house and her duties as a mother.
Anna had some help from Megan (Haley Bennett), her neighbor and the woman Rachel watched daily from the train. Megan seemed to have a great life with her loving husband, Scott (Luke Evans). But all that covered up something darker in her life — a past she couldn’t forget or leave behind.
When Megan goes missing, a police investigation begins. Rachel feels drawn to help, though she knows Megan only from her fantasies during her daily train ride. Rachel gets drawn deeper into the investigation and, due to her drinking, is missing time the day of Rachel’s disappearance. Recovering those memories could be the clue to what really happened to Megan, and to Rachel’s role in the events.
Many will probably make a connection between this film and “Gone Girl,” another dark film based on a novel that offered a whodunit sort of mystery when a woman disappeared. And the comparison is somewhat apt. From a tone standpoint, the films are similar. But “The Girl on the Train” isn’t nearly as complete a film.
Director Tate Taylor (“The Help,” “Get On Up”) has a feel for the material, and weaves the story in a compelling way. The scenes are well framed and the narrative moves along, offering the reveals in a compelling way as we go on a journey with Rachel to recovery her memories and unravel the mystery.
But the story isn’t always compelling, and the ending feels a bit uneven and rushed. There isn’t the sense of closure or answers the audience would hope for given the nature of the story. While it all makes sense, and it’s entertaining, it left me wanting a little something more.
The performances are strong. Bennett does a nice job in an interesting role as Megan, showing many layers to her character. Ferguson does a good job, too, in a somewhat thankless role. And Theroux brings the perfect essence to Tom, a smooth operator who isn’t as charming or perfect as he first appears.
But Blunt is the engine that makes the film go. She has the hardest part to play, carries the biggest chunk of the narrative, and offers the richest performance. She’s long been an under rated actress, but her work in this film should get some notice come awards season.
“The Girl on the Train” was one of the more anticipated films of the fall. Based on the popular book, with a strong cast, many had high expectations for the film, including myself. It’s a good movie, but not great. Blunt’s performance is excellent, but it feels like it’s in service of a movie that could have been better.
“The Girl on the Train” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, sexual content, language and nudity. Enter with caution.
Three stars out of four.