By Zach Goins
The following was taken from my article for The Daily Tar Heel.
I went into “The Girl on the Train” with some pretty big expectations. After all, it was the highly anticipated film adaptation of this summer’s hottest novel that I never quite got around to reading, aka the “Gone Girl” of 2016.
Well, in my defense I got to page 86 before other things got in the way. Aka school, Netflix, catching up on “Game of Thrones,” etc. The movie was coming out soon enough, so I could just wait a couple of months and see that instead, right? I know, I know, I’m the worst kind of person.
Anyways, “The Girl on the Train” centers around Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee struggling to move on after her husband’s affair. Every day on the train to work, she is forced to ride past her old house, where her husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), still lives with his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby. From her seat, Rachel also watches the couple next door and fantasizes about their perfect, made-up love life. Sometimes Rachel’s creation of the couple’s imaginary life verges on an obsession.
One day, the woman next door, Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), disappears, and Rachel is pulled into a missing persons case after being seen lurking outside Tom’s house on the same night. Of course, it doesn’t help that Rachel was drunk and wakes up covered in dirt and blood, only able to remember bits and pieces of the night.
Like any murder mystery, “The Girl on the Train” has its twists and surprise reveals, which held my interest throughout the entire movie. There were small hints at the identity of the murderer, enough to start some speculation, but the film was able to keep the big reveal a mystery until the last 20 minutes or so.
Closely following the book (or at least what I read of it), the story jumps back and forth between points of view and dates in time, which adds an interesting element to the storytelling, but could cause some confusion if viewers were to miss a caption or take a quick bathroom break.
Blunt did a phenomenal job as Rachel, playing one of the most unlikable characters in my recent moviegoing history. As a viewer, I constantly found myself groaning as time after time she continued to get drunk before trying to help solve the mystery only to cause more trouble for herself and everyone else involved. She was so unlikable that at times I told myself I didn’t even care what happened to her because she’d already had her chances to set the record straight, but blew them.
Haley Bennett was one of the highlights of the movie, portraying the detached and almost emotionless Hipwell in flashbacks before her murder. At times she seemed monotone or expressionless, but that was her character’s story. Maybe it was an easy role, or maybe she nailed it, but either way Bennett’s performance was very convincing.
By no means is “The Girl on the Train” an Oscar contender, but it was a nice way to spend two hours. I wasn’t extremely invested in the characters, but the plot was interesting and I was surprised when the truth was revealed.
The movie was entertaining enough that hey, I might even go back and finish the book now.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.