It should come as no surprise that Amblin’ Partners snapped up the rights to Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best seller The Girl On The Train, and now, a little more than a year later are ready with their new home at Universal to spring the film version on audiences who made that pulpy fiction a commanding hit on the bookshelves.
As I say in my video review, for those fans of psychological thrillers that are more psychological than thrilling, this complex but sleazy murder mystery should be right up their alley. Fans of the book will flock because they are already one step ahead of the rest of us in figuring out the inter-relationships of all these characters.
The movie adaptation by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), follows the complicated flash forward, flash back, here and now structure of the book, so what may be confusing at first to non-readers of Hawkins’ twisty plot will make perfect sense to those who have already spent time with these characters. For me the key thing the filmmakers got absolutely right was the casting of British actress Emily Blunt in the key role of Rachel, the unhinged alcoholic divorcee who may – or may not – be a murder suspect.
Although the setting of the book has been moved from London to suburban Ardsley on Hudson in New York, Blunt fits in perfectly as a depressed woman pining for the life her ex-husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux) now has with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby.
Rachel blames herself for being unable to have a child, leading to erratic behavior and a heavy drinking problem, as well as an obsession with Tom and his new life, particularly the baby. Her downward spiral also leads to her being fired from her PR job in New York City but yet, without telling anyone, still takes the train to and from her home each day just like she had a workplace to go to. Along that route she eyes strangers Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans ) on the deck of their home. Even though she doesn’t know them the connections are there. It turns out Megan also babysits for Anna and Tom. One day as the train whizzes by Rachel spies Megan passionately kissing another man, definitely not her live-in lover. Could it be local psychiatrist Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez)? He seems to get around a lot and somehow becomes tangled up in the lives of these three women, two of whom look like they could be sisters.
Maybe that extra level of confusion is the point as Rachel becomes increasingly unhinged viewing their seemingly ideal lives, and then on one drunken binge finds herself bloodied and left beaten one night. That turns out to be the same night a murder occurs. Who did it and how it did it happen? That’s the big mystery here and unfortunately Rachel has lost all memory of the night, only retrieving pieces of the puzzle sporadically as the film moves along.
Taylor, who with The Help proved himself a deft director of women, does it again in a very different kind of story, one that will be familiar to fans of movies like Gone Girl, Fatal Attraction and Single White Female. This one wallows a bit too much in the dirt, and the male characters tend to be one dimensional, but thanks to some crafty editing from Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland, fine cinematography including lots of very cool train shots from Charlotte Bruus Christensen, and an eerie Hitchcock-like score from Danny Elfman (one of his best and most surprising), the movie works on its own terms. Taylor and Wilson avoid every opportunity to turn it into pure camp although the ending teeters on the edge. Among the supporting cast, Allison Janney as Detective Riley, really scored for me.
If the Hawkins book was a good beach read, the movie version is a nice multiplex view, even if Alfred Hitchcock doesn’t have to worry about his legacy with this one. Most of all though, it has the luminous Emily Blunt. Producers are Marc Platt and Jared LeBoff. Universal releases very wide this Friday.
Do you plan to see The Girl On The Train? Let us know what you think.