Based upon the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train was one of the most anticipated films of 2016. Being one of the biggest phenomenon’s in recent literature, audiences wouldn’t have to wait too long for the film adaptation. With a story that should translate so well to the screen and a stellar cast, we thought it was going to be fail-safe. Unfortunately, we were left feeling disappointed.
A big mistake many writers make when adapting such well-known novels into films is relying too heavily on the source material as the essence of everything. This can sometimes lead to dodgy interpretations of the same monologues, knock-offs of the same conversations, and also the opportunity to completely change the setting of the story so as to fit their own model. For us, the story should have remained in the city of London rather than Manhattan, as the new setting adds a sort of glamour to what should be an incredibly bleak tale of alcoholism and abuse. The train journey from the outskirts to the centre of London wouldn’t have been anywhere near as picturesque as the journey along the coastline of New York, but more representative of the story being told with grey tower blocks, dank rivers and moody weather.
The story itself follows Rachel, played somewhat sacrificially by Emily Blunt, an alcoholic who commutes to and from New York every single day. On her journey she stops in the same place and gazes upon a seemingly perfect couple. One morning after an alcohol related blackout, Rachel wakes up to discover that Megan, one half of this dream couple, has gone missing, and Rachel must do all she can to find out what happened. With her ex-husband, his new wife and their baby living on the same street as Megan and her husband Scott, Rachel struggles to battle her past and her patchy present in order to vindicate herself after being spotted at the scene of the crime.
Unfortunately, the writers have wasted such a fantastic opportunity to make a thriller strong enough to live up to the book’s reputation, and have instead created some strange and pretentious knock off which views like a questionable day time movie with the over the top eroticism of the Fifty Shades franchise. The developments in the storyline are rushed and uncompromising. The reveals later on in the film are poorly executed and badly edited into overdone flashbacks of the protagonist.
We feel this film was made too quickly and without real thought about the transition of the story from the pages to the screen. With a staggering ready-made audience sitting behind it, this film was always going to be a hit, but it seems it was just another lacklustre attempt to get something out in circulation to appease demand without actually delivering a polished final product.
Luckily, for the film’s sake, Emily Blunt delivers a stellar performance which certainly deserves recognition (and for which she did receive a BAFTA nomination). Blunt mostly pulls off being blind drunk fairly convincingly, and brings real emotion to this generally unlikeable character – although we reckon she was chosen to add a Hollywood gloss of beauty to Rachel, who is described as distinctly average in the book. Regardless, she’s the best part of this film.
The supporting cast are less deserving of praise. Where they aren’t completely terrible, they simply don’t illicit any sort of strong reaction from the audience. The performances are so underwhelming for a cast that boasts the talents of Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson, Allison Janney, Laura Prepon and Lisa Kudrow, though the film doesn’t give them that much room to show their skills.
Where the cast wasn’t able to save this film from tanking, the style and music of the film aid it in its descent to the bottom of the barrel. It is pretentious, disjointed, and, for a story so dark, contains too much soft-lighting and erotica than what should have been necessary to get the message across.
We give The Girl on the Train a disappointing 2 stars for falling into that almost inevitable trap of ‘but the book was so much better than the film’. If you’re intrigued in this story, we recommend reading the source material instead.
The Girl on the Train is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray here. Take a look at the trailer below.