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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
Universal // R // October 7, 2016
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted October 4, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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After generating a large amount of popularity, The Girl on the Train's silver screen adaptation was inevitable. Having never read the source material, I found the synopsis itself to be intriguing. Given Universal's marketing campaign for the film, I made the joke that it was Gone Girl: Part II; it most certainly is not. The only elements that the two films share are genre and a female narrator. Despite remaining consistently entertaining, The Girl on the Train wishes that it could be as powerful as Gone Girl. There's a clear separation in the quality of storytelling and character crafting.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a divorced alcoholic, who spends her days riding the train and spying on her ex-husband's family and one of their neighbors, named Megan (Haley Bennett). Her voyeuristic tendencies cause her to develop an obsession for the woman who seems to have it all. When Rachel has another drunken blackout, she quickly discovers that Megan has suddenly gone missing. Rachel is left to question whether she had something to do with her disappearance.

The first act introduces an array of rich themes, including depression, alcoholism, and gender stereotypes. The Girl on the Train opens with voice-over narration from Rachel, her ex-husband's wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and Megan. The further we get into the film, the more their stories begin to collide. However, the characters are no longer communicating with the audience via narration. This allows them to have a little bit more breathing room. However, the film soon abandons its most intriguing themes for the plot's various twists and turns. I figured out the story's big ending within the first thirty minutes. Once the secret is out, the film isn't left with much to explore.

Perhaps one of the feature's biggest strengths is its characterizations found in its three female leads. They are presented as human beings with their own set of flaws, making the story much more captivating. In turn, all men are depicted as absolute sociopaths. For a film that challenges gender expectations in society, the male characters have absolutely no redeeming values to be found past their one-dimensional and cold exterior. It becomes a bit tiring when they all begin to feel as if they're blending together into a single character. However, Rachel's struggle with alcoholism and depression manage to keep us hooked as the most engaging aspect of the film.

The Girl on the Train comes to a screeching halt in its third act, as it focuses entirely on the crime mystery aspects of the story. By this point, the film has become so obsessed with the delivery of its final twist that it fails to give the characters the time that they deserve. It ultimately feels like a made-for-TV crime mystery, except with more sex and violence. The last twenty minutes garnered some unintentional laughs in my press screening, and for good reason. It becomes difficult to tell if we should be taking any of what we're seeing seriously. The Girl on the Train takes us to some pretty melodramatic places, and your willingness to let it take you will ultimately decide how you feel leaving the theater.

Along with having BAFTA-nominated director Tate Taylor, the film sports a strong cast of A-listers. Emily Blunt is absolutely stellar as Rachel. She manages to deliver a highly captivating performance, even through the film's most melodramatic moments. She holds the film together, especially through her more personal scenes discussing depression and alcohol abuse. Haley Bennett is entirely believable in the role of Megan. She continues to impress throughout the film. The remainder of the cast offers names such as Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, upon others, although none of them leave much of an impression here.

There are clear influences from Hitchcock and Fincher throughout, although none of it quite comes together. There are an abundance of fascinating themes introduced within the first act, which are ultimately abandoned for a generic mystery that relies far too heavily on its predictable twists and turns. Even so, it remains entertaining throughout its running time, and Emily Blunt delivers a performance expected from an Oscar-nominated film. The Girl on the Train sets off to a strong start, but ultimately goes a bit too far off the rails. Rent it.

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