Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Girl on the Train

Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train, based on Paula Hawkin’s best selling novel of the same name, has been one of the most talked about and hyped releases of the year. With an all-star cast lead by Emily Blunt, it certainly has a lot to live up to.

Divorcee Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic, she has been for a long time, with alcohol-induced blackouts littering memories of her marriage. It all fell apart for Rachel when she caught her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) cheating on her with their estate agent Anna Boyd (Rebecca Ferguson). Every day, Rachel catches the train past her old neighbourhood, glancing into her old house and the surroundings. She becomes fixated on Tom’s neighbours, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Hayley Bennett), the archetypal relationship that Rachel desires. After a series of far from lucid moments, Rachel wakes up injured in her apartment. She can’t remember anything from the night before and finds out that Megan is missing.

It’s taken me nearly a week to get my notes together after watching this mess of a film. There was a tremendous amount of hype for The Girl on the Train leading up to release, with many heralding it as another potential Gone Girl, and the comparisons to that are important because technically and thematically it’s obvious that Taylor draws inspiration from Fincher’s film (or rips it off as some may view it). Full disclosure, I wasn’t as enamoured with Gone Girl as many others were, but to compare these two is just insulting.

The first issue comes with the mystery. Judging from the marketing, The Girl on the Train promised to be a dark and gritty mix of procedural crime and psychological thriller. What we get is barely a flash of the crime element until the denouement when all the puzzle pieces are revealed at once, well-and-truly together and not particularly intriguing, engaging or even intelligent. The rest of the film is composed of horrendous editing, a very ugly use of low-framerate photography and a thinly laid psychological pastiche that does very little to enchant the audience.

People are praising Emily Blunt’s performance as the one saving grace this film has, but I can’t even agree with that. She spends most of her time pretending to be intoxicated and stumbling around helplessly in a role that certainly might trump the other performances on-show but is still not worthy of the kudos that it has received. There’s no real downfall for Rachel because she’s already spun-out of control by the time we meet her. The material is just so poor that even such an able cast can’t dredge a solid character out of Erin Cressida Wilson’s script.

Allison Janney's character is probably the only half-enjoyable one, solely because she goes around somehow knowing everything about everyone and being a hilariously smug detective. It’s as annoying as it sounds but hey, at least she’s not sulking around with all the other depressed, dopey characters, whose sole-interactions with the world seem to be abusing each other and engaging in ridiculous love triangles. There’s one particularly absurd scene towards the end that just about sums up The Girl on the Train, with the audience's reaction a mix of 10% genuine shock, 80% belittling laughter, and 10% heading for the exit.

The Girl on the Train is a poorly acted, poorly written, frustrating, tedious, ugly lump of a film, which squanders all its energy on its meandering plot. I couldn’t honestly recommend that anybody spend money on this total misfire, but given the book’s performance, I know that they will.

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