THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (15 October 2016)
Directed by Tate Taylor and starring Emily Blunt as Rachel, adapted from the novel by Paula Hawkins.
It doesn’t take long for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN to derail. Not the train; it survived. No, the titular “Girl” and the Story itself. I recall my frustrated attempts to read the novel a couple of years ago. I think it was not quite halfway through that I literally threw the damned thing against the wall. Or was it out the window of a train? I really don’t remember. The convoluted plot, the arbitrarily contrived intersections of the characters—three narrators, no less—and the baffling dislocated narrative line left me profoundly disinterested and, frankly, pissed off. It’s as if director Tate Taylor decided he was going to outgun the French master, Alain Renais in drowning the hapless viewer in a swamp of confusion. Actually, he succeeded. Resnais’s masterpiece, MURIEL, has nothing on THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.
How happy I am to see that Anthony Lane’s review in The New Yorker agrees with me: “Half the sentient beings on earth appear to have read the book,” Lane writes, “alleging with near-unanimity that they couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t pick it up. I tried.” He goes on to note the drab mediocrity of it all: “The tale is set largely in a suburb on the Hudson, and nothing is duller or more stifling, as a rule, than people who wish to make it perfectly plain how stifled they feel by their dull suburban existence.”
I defy you to hang with me as I try to work out the plot. Rachel used to be married to Tom. But Tom had an affair with Anna, and is now married to her. They have a baby. They also have a nanny named Megan. Megan looks a lot like Anna. Megan is living with a creepy guy named Scott. She is also hot for her shrink, Kamal. Rachel is also seeing Kamal. Meanwhile, during one of her train rides up the Hudson, Rachel spots suspicious activity on the balcony where Tom and Anna live. Is the girl in the clinch Megan? Is it Anna? And is her squeeze Scott, or Tom, or Kamal?
Who gives a damn?
And did I mention that Rachel is so spaced out psychologically and so drunk throughout that she can’t figure out anything? Never mind, she will soon commit murder. But no, it is Anna—or is it Megan?—who does the deed.
I have to admit Emily Blunt is very brave taking on the role of the drunk and wobbly and spaced out Rachel. The bombshell that years ago graced THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is here a dour, bleary wreck.
During your next train trip, I suggest you pick up a less convoluted, bewildering book, say, THE SPOILS OF POYNTON, by Henry James.