The best thing about not so amazing books are that their movie adaptations can always be better. The movie adaptation of The Girl On The Train is definitely a good example of that. Based on the bestseller written by Paula Hawkins, the book was touted as the next Gone Girl as soon as it hit the stands (it isn’t, they’re very different stories), but I get the comparison. Both the books and the movies based on them, have an unreliable narrator, an unlikable female protagonist, domestic abuse and quite a bit of blood.
The story has three female protagonists, with Rachel (Emily Blunt) being the core. Suffering from alcoholism (because she’s unable to conceive) and prone to blackouts, Rachel has nothing going on in her life. Her cheating ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has divorced her and is in a seemingly happy relationship with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. Rachel takes the train that crosses their house everyday, and apart from her ex’s new family, she is also deeply fascinated and with a couple who lives two houses away, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). Rachel imagines Megan and Scott to be the ideal couple, the love story she could never have and her obsession reaches a new level when suddenly, Megan is missing and a drunk Rachel has been discovered near the vicinity by the police.
Emily Blunt has honestly done a fantastic job as the vodka guzzling, slurring and confused Rachel who is pretty much the embodiment of the ‘crazy ex-wife’ cliche. Most of the movie has tight close-ups of the actress and it really seems like her features are disintegrating because of her alcohol abuse. One scene in particular, where she’s talking to a mother and a baby on a seat next to her comes into mind. She slurs, her eyes are bloodshot and the mother is clearly uncomfortable with her presence, but Rachel doesn’t seem to understand how badly she comes across. Haley Bennett is gorgeous and looks exactly the part of the mysterious, lost and seductive Megan who is having an affair with her therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Édgar Ramírez) behind her husband’s back. Another stand out performance from the film is Justin Theroux, the very complicated male lead of a tricky story. Fans of the book will be happy that nothing in particular has been changed from the source material, except maybe a few additions in order to make viewing simpler. People who have not read the book and are not aware of the film’s twist ending will surely not see it coming and that makes this movie an exciting watch.
The director, Tate Taylor, who has earlier made the Academy Award nominated movie The Help is adept at handling complex female characters and it shows. There’s nothing in the film which has been toned down to be ‘friendlier’ for the audience. The screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson is well written and I personally preferred watching the movie instead of reading the book as she has cut down just the right amount of the stuff that seemed extra. The cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen is brilliant as many key scenes makes the viewer feel breathless and angsty, as though we are inside Rachel’s convoluted mind. If I have to nitpick, I will say that I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t make Rachel overweight and her recovery from alcoholism seemed too easy.
The main crux of the story is the gaslighting a protagonist has been going through for years and once the big reveal is made, you will be pretty satisfied with the ending. Just don’t compare it to Gone Girl and please give Emily Blunt a nice, long hug.