This movie thriller (trailer) written by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Tate Taylor is based on Paula Hawkins’s runaway best-selling novel. Cognoscenti in the crime fiction world consider the book distinctly overrated, so an investment of two hours in the movie theater may be preferable to a dozen hours of reading. Maybe this was a bad choice. As Christy Lemire at RogerEbert.com says, “The Girl on the Train is good trash. At least as a novel, it is. As a film, however, it’s not even that.”
The story is initially engaging, thanks primarily to excellent acting by Emily Blount as Rachel, the alcoholic protagonist. She knows her husband Tom had an affair and left their childless marriage primarily because of her drinking but seems to be spinning ever-further out of control, a vodka-in-the-water-bottle kind of drinker.
I’m not persuaded by critics who say the film withholds pertinent information, because it is mostly told from Rachel’s point of view. We see the world as she does—none too clearly—with a few scenes from the also-limited perspectives of the other two principal women.
Rachel commutes into the city every day from Westchester (London in the novel), and her train passes behind their former house. She can see him (played by Justin Theroux), his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby. She also sees the devoted neighbor couple (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett), whose love seems perfect in these tantalizing glimpses. If her city job were real, exposing herself to hurt with this voyeurism might be torture. Since her job is imaginary, it’s pathological.
You will have guessed that the neighbor couple’s relationship is more complicated than Rachel apprehends, and when the woman turns up missing, Rachel’s obsessions and her hazy perceptions create havoc. It’s always fun to see Allison Janney, here as a police detective investigating the disappearance and trying to make sense of Rachel’s “evidence.”
Ultimately, the motivations that drive what turns out to be a six-sided story of love and lust, deceit and dangerous truth-telling are deeply clichéd, and there are a few too many close-ups of a befuddled Rachel. The Girl on the Train is a ride to nowhere terribly interesting.
Rotten Tomatoes critics rating 44%; audiences 56%.