The Girl on the Train Is Budget Gone Girl

Well, the disappointing fall movie streak continues. The Girl on the Train was a major letdown. It’s based on the 2015 novel of the same name written by Paula Hawkins (which is sitting in my Amazon cart right now), and even though I haven’t read the book yet, I was pretty excited because The Girl on the Train has the “creep factor” you want in October movies. Plus, Emily Blunt. But it was just so incredibly mediocre that I’m not sure if I want to read the book now.

The plot follows alcoholic divorcee Rachel (Emily Blunt), who rides the train from the New York suburbs to Manhattan every day. While passing, she watches the life of suburban couple Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), who live two doors down from the home she once shared with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), who now lives with his mistress-turned-wife Anna (Rebecca Hall) and their infant daughter. One night, after seeing Megan cheating on her husband, Rachel drunkenly wanders into the suburbs. She awakes the next morning covered in blood and learns Megan is missing. Worried she may have been involved, Rachel dedicates her time to uncovering her memories and what happened to Megan.

Look, I know fans of Hawkins’ novel get annoyed at Gillian Flynn comparisons. But to be fair, Hawkins’ story isn’t that far off of Gone Girl. They’re both perspective-style novels with multiple narrators and flashbacks that make it difficult for readers to discover the truth. They both have plots about an upper-middle class suburban housewife gone missing. Director Tate Taylor even tried to mimick David Fincher’s cinematography from Gone Girl. The difference, however, is that this movie lacks the subtlety and substance of Gone Girl. And because Gone Girl is still fairly recent, it highlights these issues more than it would had the films come out ten years apart.

Justin Theroux and Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train

It’s unfortunate that the movie suffers from poor narrative structure and dumb editing (like how we’re still seeing flashbacks after the mystery is revealed) because Blunt, Bennett, and Ferguson put in good performances. They manage to take vapid roles—excluding Blunt’s Rachel, who’s better developed—and create tension by fusing housewife/mother competition with the womanly compassion that only comes from experiencing trauma together. The male characters played by Luke Evans, Justin Theroux, and Edgar Ramirez, on the other hand, are only written and shot to seem shady, so as to keep the mystery going. Compared to Gone Girl‘s Nick Dunne, they’re all caricatures of sleaze with no motivation.

All I’m saying is this feels like a more expensive version of a Lifetime movie. Maybe we should all just stick to the book instead…?

The Girl on the Train: C+

Listen to my review of The Girl on The Train on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 40:19).

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