Monday, October 10, 2016

Find A Better Cinematic Passenger Than The Girl On The Train

There's a sense of confusion throughout The Girl On The Train, and I'm not just referring to how the protagonist of this story has a massive dependency on alcohol makes it difficult to remember crucial memories. No, there's a pretty clear sense of dubiety that's occurring in the script too, one that seems like the screenwriter of The Girl On The Train, in an effort to adapt the 2015 book (that I have not read, just for context), was struggling to figure out what kind of tone to go for here. Was this a trashy fun thriller? Was this a thoughtful exploration of alcoholism and regret? Was this both? What is this movie?

Well, I suppose this movie is the tale of Rachel (Emily Blunt), whose become a booze-driven mess who can't seem to forget about the past she used to have with her ex-husband. Every day, she takes a train that passes right by the house of Megan (Haley Bennett), a woman who seems so happy with her husband. A combination of jealousy and longing to have that kind of relationship again emerge in Rachel's soul...and such feelings are replaced with rage when, during one seemingly routine train ride, Rachel see's Megan having an affair with some other guy. That night, Rachel happens to run into Megan, yells the word "WHORE!!" at her...and that's all she can remember from that night. The alcohol has left some time missing in her memory.

Megan goes missing shortly thereafter and the hunt is on to find her, and since Rachel was the last person to see her, she becomes a prime suspect in the case. The mystery of what happened to Megan is far far from a suspenseful one, mainly because the various people that could be suspects (including Megan's abusive husband played by perennial villain actor Luke Evans) are played off in such a broad strokes, even the most casual viewer is likely to guess there's gotta be a bigger play here. With the mystery element of the story being a bust, and since Rachel and her plight aren't all that interesting on her own too, we're all just basically waiting for the inevitable "GOTCHA!" reveal while we sit through this hum-drum movie.

The conclusion of The Girl On The Train is really the only element to garner some sort of emotional reaction, though most certainly not in the way the filmmakers intended. Having Rachel have gaps in her memory of that fateful is narrative device that exists solely so you can pull off an uber-contrived climax that does nothing to further characters or themes is just immensely frustrating and leaves one with an inescapable sour taste in one's mouth as you leave the theater. Creating interesting characters or plot points is not on this movie's mind, rather, all it can think about is getting to its punchline while leaving behind a dull set-up in its wake. What comes before that outright infuriating conclusion is better, but only by virtue of being merely tepid material that's biding time until the aforementioned "twist ending" can come around.

In theory, you'd think setting up this movie's narrative in a way that allows for three different characters (including one played by Rebecca Ferguson, who gives the best performance of the film and who also really deserves far better work after blasting onto the scene in the newest Mission: Impossible movie) to offer their perspectives on the story could be an interesting way to give the ensemble cast of this tale some depth, but nope, it's just another way where The Girl On The Train sacrifices profundity or even just basic-level entertainment in favor of endless tedious monologues from Haley Bennett's character while Emily Blunt's character mopes around waiting for the aforementioned twist ending to arrive. Well, that's not true actually, sometimes Emily Blunt also has to grapple with a bafflingly bad vocal affection she puts on to convey the characters intoxication. No clue who thought her voice for these scenes was a good idea, but it does not work one bit in such a brazenly serious film.

Another way Rachel's issue with alcohol is conveyed in the movie is through director Tate Taylor's frequent use of slow-motion effects straight out of Peter Jackson's King Kong movie. That's about the only visual flourish on display here, otherwise the film isn't even all that interesting to look at. It's a pity that The Girl On The Train goes so far off the....beaten path in terms of quality storytelling because there's oodles of potential in here, no denying that. But none of that potential comes even close to being fulfilled here in a movie that's mostly just disposable and by-the-numbers rather than out-and-out bad until it's disastrously handled climax arrives to eradicate any goodwill left in the viewer.

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