Review: Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is reasonably dubbed as Gone Girl of 2015 when it became a bestselling phenomena awhile ago for sharing some mutual qualities with Gillian Flynn’s. Both are being written by former-journalist female authors, describing specific girls on the title, involving missing girls, devising unreliable narrators, and being bestselling thrillers.
When Gone Girl results in a compelling adaptation by David Fincher, the odds are high for Paula Hawkins’ to be adapted into silver screen. Yet, this time, The Girl on the Train adaptation simply is not the Gone Girl of 2016 if you might expect.
Shifting the settings from countryside of London to New York, The Girl on the Train follows a miserable Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a daily commuter and an alcoholic, who makes herself mostly an unreliable character. Every day during her journey to and fro New York, she observes a house where a couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), lives.
For whatever reason, she quickly gets obsessed to the couple, specifically, to Megan, whom she thinks having the perfect life. A perfect life is what’s lost from her after her husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) left her for Anna (Rebecca Ferguson, MI5), the allegedly other woman, in her previous marriage.
One day Rachel witnesses something she should not have seen (or should have?) when Megan kisses a man but not Scott. The day after, someone is missing.
Similar to the novel, this adaptation also devices non-linear narrative from multi-POVs to progress. There are cues indicating from whose perspective we are watching now plus the timeline indication. Director Tate Taylor (The Help) seems confused in jumping through body and time. The deeper he is tangling between Rachel’s broken soul and the drama between the other two women with their men respectively, the more the puzzles get uninteresting.
Unable to re-deliver the murkiness and fuzziness the novel awkwardly offers, the adaptation opts to reinvent the story and makes the unabridged version, which doesn’t simplify things but cutting some dragging moments in the novel. However, Erin Cressida Wilson’s script isn’t quite engaging enough to keep audiences on track while the train clatters; something that the novel is notoriously able to do.
Tate Taylor loves to make the characters fascinating in details, but he somehow ‘forgets’ that The Girl on the Train is only as strong as deception by deception its characters show; that each character is far from being innocent; that each character is composed of monologues full of b*llshit that they can’t even confirm; that each of their motivations is full of ambiguity. The sense of unreliable narrator, which becomes the key of the twist, is neglected, in compensation, series of disturbing flashbacks and dreamlike sequences are inserted at low-satisfactory level.
Let alone the pace, which goes inconsistent as it goes, The Girl on the Train seems to get cramped with over-dramatization and too-edgy-to-be-true soap opera materials. It is over-the-top at best, or negligent at worst. It even lets someone vividly observing a couple in a house by the railroad for more than a minute. Have you ever been on a train?
In the end, as the biggest revelations of the puzzle unravels, The Girl on the Train has already lost its charm; and the long-awaited answer is, at best, stale. The thrill has already gone 60 minutes earlier when audiences are still seeking for it, questioning about everything. Up to this point, not even Emily Blunt’s astonishing performance as an underwritten psycho-b*tch could save the whole adaptation.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Adaptation Directed by: Tate Taylor Written by: Erin Cressida Wilson based on the novel by Paula Hawkins Starred by: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux Runtime: 112 mins Rated R