Movie review: Thriller unlikely to haunt viewers the same way as “Gone Girl,” but film still gets the job done. Rating: 3 stars out of four.
Girl” in the title? Check. Early-October release date? Check. Unreliable female narrator? Mysterious blondes? A woman gone missing? A tour-de-force central performance? Check, all of them.
Paula Hawkins’ novel “The Girl on the Train,” published in early 2015, quickly became — fairly or unfairly — the literary successor to Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster 2012 thriller “Gone Girl.” (Flynn’s book is the more interesting and clever of the two, but they both get the job done.) Now the movie of “Girl on the Train” is here, right smack in the 2014 “Gone Girl” movie slot, and there’s a lot to recommend it, most notably a quavering, magnetic central performance by Emily Blunt. But director Tate Taylor (“The Help,” “Get on Up”), while competent, is no David Fincher. “Girl on the Train” isn’t likely to haunt its shivering viewers the way the “Gone Girl” movie did.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Girl on the Train,’ with Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow. Directed by Tate Taylor, from a screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins. 105 minutes. Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity. Several theaters.
Blunt, however, makes the ride well worth taking. She’s playing Rachel, a British woman living in New York state (Blunt’s use of her natural accent, barely noted in the film, highlights the character’s isolation) whose life is a godawful mess. Divorced from the husband (Justin Theroux) with whom she desperately wanted a child, Rachel sadly rides the train to and from Manhattan, gazing at her old house through the window, slurping vodka from a water bottle to numb the pain. She becomes obsessed with her ex’s new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and with Anna’s neighbor Megan (Haley Bennett), whose life — through a train window — looks perfect. But suddenly Megan vanishes, and Rachel, in her drunken fuzz, thinks she might have seen what happened. Did she? And, if she did, will anyone believe her?
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It’s an intriguing premise, and Blunt melts into the role like ice in a glass. She looks lost, ravaged by hopelessness, her voice thickening into syrup, her gait a confused stumble. (A wise actor once told me that to play a drunk, the trick is not to act drunk, but to act not drunk. I thought of this watching Blunt; her Rachel desperately trying to pretend she’s fine.) There are problems with “Girl on the Train” — it’s often hard to tell Megan and Anna apart (they’re supposed to look similar, but it’s not a problem in the book as you see the name on the page), the male characters feel underwritten, and the tone at times feels overwrought. But, if you’re asking whether it’s as good as the book, I’d pause before answering — the book, alas, didn’t have Blunt in it.