a critiQal film review The Girl on the Train (2016)

Plot: Rachel (Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.

501 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 30s)

It was Carmella’s turn to pick out a movie. This time, she wanted to watch The Girl on the Train, the film based on the popular novel by Paula Hawkins. I’d seen the previews, and they looked interesting, so figured I’d give it a shot.

So, had she picked a winner? Or would The Girl on the Train be stuck in the station, so to speak?

Emily Blunt stars in The Girl on the Train. She’s much dowdier in this film than she usually appears, and as the story unfolds, the viewers discover her appearance is a side effect of her continuing battle with alcoholism. She’s got a tragic past, and Blunt does a great job of showcasing a woman falling apart. As the story unfolds, Blunt keeps the viewer finely tuned to her character, expecting the worst while hoping for the best. It’s a strong performance, and like Charlize Theron in Monster (2003), showcases just how well some actresses can do with damaged characters.

The rest of the cast is decent, but not up to the standout performance of Blunt. Familiar faces abound in The Girl on the Train, however, and it’s fun to play who’s who. With performances from Allison Janney (“The West Wing” (TV)), Laura Prepon (“That 70’s Show” (TV)) and Lisa Kudrow (“Friends” (TV)) popping up among the bit players, The Girl on the Train has lots of small parts to give these actresses a chance to show their stuff too, if only briefly. With Luke Evans also a major character (and another familiar face), these are a group the normal viewer can associate with. While their characters aren’t exactly the same as the one the viewer is familiar with, there is enough familiarity it’s not a stretch to think of them as continuations of those characters.

The Girl on the Train does a smart job of keeping the viewer interested right from the get go. At first, the film seems to be about one woman’s tragic descent into alcoholism and failure, but when she becomes involved with a murder, the story takes on a whole new life. Unlike other murder mysteries, however, this film plays out as having a number one suspect, and letting the police and the other characters playing catch-up. It’s a different approach, and one that works very well here.

With a standout performance by Blunt, a solid supporting cast, and a different approach to the murder mystery genre, The Girl on the Train seems to have everything right. So why didn’t it get a better rating? Partly, it seems to drag on a bit, and several scenes easily could have been cut without altering the film in any way. Partly, even though it keeps you interested, Emily’s portrayal is so realistic it’s just kind of uncomfortable to watch. It’s a solid thriller, but there’s just something about it that is a bit cliched anyway – and a bit disturbing.

Definitely worth a rental, but most viewers wouldn’t want to stick around for another viewing.

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