Starring Emily Blunt (Rachel), Haley Bennet (Megan), and Rebecca Fergusen (Anna), The Girl on the Train is billed as a Thriller, but it gave me very few thrills at all. Mistake number one that I made was reading the book (I finished it a few days ago) before seeing the movie, which is something I may never do again after this fiasco. Mistake number two – I saw the movie.
I didn’t like this book because I didn’t like any of the main characters. They were all so screwed up and generally not nice people. There was really no one to “root for,” with the exception that Rachel was so pathetic you just felt sorry for her – up to a point. And after that point I realized she was not very bright, to be polite about it. Not to mention, I figured out the conclusion about 75 pages before the book ended, which made it torture for me to finish without flipping to the back and ending it myself.
I did not think this book was adaptable to the screen without making a lot of changes in formatting of the storytelling because the story goes back and forth in time from the perspectives of the three female characters, Rachel, Megan and Anna, many times. I thought that if the format could be pulled off successfully, that would be the biggest part of the battle with this movie and it might be good, because the formatting is the best part of the book. So I gave it a chance.
The movie stays true to the format of the book, going back and forth in time, with flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks, from the perspective of each of these women, and it all proves to be an anticlimactic mess. At moments of revelation there should have been audible gasps heard from the audience (I have to admit, at one point while reading the book my jaw dropped along with other stunning moments, so there is some good material here). But this style of storytelling, which seems “smart” in a book, does not translate onto the screen particularly well, or at least it wasn’t done well in this case.
The change of setting from England to New York did not bother me at all. I didn’t even mind that Rachel did not fit the book’s description of the character. What I did mind was the omission of some important plot details:
1) Rachel just seems to show up places (three times this happened) without so much as a thought from her on why or how she got there. At these times it was a good thing I read the book because I would not have known what to think. There is no motivation for her actions. She just does things and things just happen and “poof” here we are.
2) I did not get the feeling that Rachel is trying to help Scott or how deeply she feels for him in her imaginary world – which becomes real life caring and obsession after she begins to interact with him.
3) The incident with Megan and the baby had potential to turn into at least one very powerful scene. What a missed opportunity, as it was glossed over, talked around and hazily depicted as if it were some minute detail.
What I did feel, is how utterly pathetic Rachel is. This unemployed, alcoholic, no life of her own-having, divorced, barren, shell of a creature is perfectly captured, because none of her misery was left out and the majority of it was shown in scenes rather than narrated. Despite having nearly equal screen time, and being characters equally as pathetic as Rachel, the majority of Megan’s and particularly Anna’s shortcomings were mostly narrated, with Megan talking to her therapist about her flaws and Anna talking to her baby or her husband about her own. So their bad acts didn’t have quite the same weight. The violent tendencies of Scott and Tom were depicted well and helped to make them both look like likely suspects, but again, the movie was too choppy and sloppy for these scenes to have the impact they could have.
The acting was pretty good – no award winning turns, but not terrible. I suppose they did the best they could with the material they had to work with. It is difficult and almost unfair to gage acting within a movie with such an unsuccessfully executed format.
The Girl on the Train earned 6 out of 10 bloops. It’s not bad, but could have been much better. Attempting to follow the format of the book was a huge mistake. This is one time where deviating from format would have been helpful to move the plot forward. At the wrong times there was too much or too little narration and there was not enough acting out of important scenes. If you liked the book I think you may like it more than I did. Who knows, you may like it less, but for me The Girl on the Train was “just okay.”