Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Girl on the Train (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Girl on the Train

This year's best selling novel, The Girl on the Train has been brought to the screen by director Tate Taylor (The Help). The cinematography is perfectly moody and dark in keeping with the environment of the protaganist, Rachel, a middle aged embittered woman who constantly doubts herself because of alcoholism and rides a train to and from New York City. The atmosphere matches the novel to a tee and the film boasts a powerful performance by Emily Blunt in the lead role. If only that was enough to keep this film on the rails; the film lags by a slow dreary pace, generic drama and confusing flashbacks.

Aside from Blunt's excellent portrayal of Rachel Watson, this shocker has the flat feel of your run-of-the-mill suburban slasher story. Rachel is a middle aged, unemployed and divorced woman. Having nothing to occupy her days or nights, she rides a commuter train for hours on end and drinks vodka. She entertains herself by inventing stories about total strangers that pass outside her window.

Rachel fixates on a house that she passes every night, occupied by a seemingly happy couple. One particular day at the house, Rachel sees the girl kissing and embracing another man. The next day, Rachel feels depression and self pity, and incessantly calls her ex, Tom (Justin Theroux). Rachel wakes up a bloody mess and the anonymous girl, Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), is missing. Is Rachel guilty?

The main stumbling blocks to any apprehension one might feel are the endless flashbacks and vignettes (e.g., six months earlier, two months later, last Friday) that make it all a chore to keep it straight. Suspense should never be laborious. Add to that the vexation that the two secondary characters, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan (Bennett) are nearly identical to one another and it is quite easy to become lost on the tracks.

By the end, it all crystalizes, but there is little to hook you in your seat at the beginning and middle of this inclement commute which plays longer than it should.

The most pleasing aperitif is Blunt alone as the wandering, pensive and seething Rachel, whose moods are as volatile as her dramatic energy. Her role is the only one that is full of body and charge. The other three portrayals of Megan, Scott and Anna are insipid, and make "The Girl on the Train" turn from what started as a fine Noir into so much acetic acid.

Write Ian at ianfree1@yahoo.com

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