Tate Taylor‘s The Girl on the Train (Universal 10.7) is no Gone Girl, that’s for sure. And Taylor, as if you didn’t know, is no David Fincher. The movie is trash — a female Joe Eszterhas meets Peyton Place meats Fatal Attraction meets Anna Karenina. And the ending! This won’t stop fans of the 2015 novel from seeing it, of course. I talked to a couple of guys after the screening, guys who should’ve known better, and they were going “hmmm, not awful, moderately okay, will sell a lotta tickets,” etc.
Paula Hawkins‘ popular if tawdry airport fiction novel, set in a middle-class London suburb, has been made into an American companion piece, set in upscale suburbia along the Hudson. It’s contrived garbage masquerading as some kind of suffering woman’s parable about…what, escaping the chains of marital servitude and pushing back against suffocating male figures in so many women’s lives? Something like that.
Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a bleary-eyed, pasty-faced alcoholic who’s divorced her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) for infidelity, trains into Manhattan each day even though her drinking has left her unemployed. Almost every time the train passes by the home of Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans, Haley Bennett), who lived nearby when Rachel was married, something openly sexual is going on. Which Rachel can’t help but stare at. The train obliges her voyeurism by moving extra slow while passing by the Hipwell abode.
Then Megan goes missing, and then Rachel starts obsessively probing into their history as well as the current life of Tom and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their infant child. This situation deeply unsettles Rachel because her alcoholism, we learn, was an outgrowth of her inability to get pregnant while married to Tom. In any event Rachel’s obsessive, unbalanced behavior manages to persuade a local detective (Allison Janney) that she might be the guilty party and yaddah yaddah.
The bottom line is that I really didn’t care for Rachel’s wobbly manner and general company. Too wounded and boozy, unable to think clearly, tedious. But none of this is really her fault, you see. I can’t spoil but once the real villain is identified and dealt with, Rachel’s life is restored.
The Girl on the Train is similar to Adrien Lyne‘s Fatal Attraction in that both convey popular beliefs about the domestic marital unit according to the years and cultures in which they were created — 1987 and 2015.
The myth behind Fatal Attraction was that Glenn Close‘s liberated, hardcore single woman was at heart a lonely, obsessive, rabbit-murdering witch who was out to destroy Michael Douglas and Anne Archer‘s domestic bliss. The movie (i.e., director Adrien Lynne) sided with Douglas and Archer — the witch had to be killed.
The myth behind The Girl on the Train is that today’s suburban wives are shackled and repressed by their dominating husbands — kept at home, serving their masters like whores, dreaming of being artists or business professionals or at least living a life that’s about more than raising kids and sipping white wine while waiting for the husband to return from work and fuck them.
The Girl on the Train is basically saying that men are evil, craven, bullying fuckers whom women need to escape from, and perhaps even kill if need be. Taylor’s film is a kind of cousin of Brian Forbes and Ira Levin‘s The Stepford Wives, when you think about it. The guys in that 1975 film are just as stupidly evil.
Blunt overacts her part. Her dialogue in a nutshell: “Waahh, I’m miserable!” She looks like a dreary wreck all through the film. Did you know that even alcoholics do what they can to look good at all times? Even if they’re drunk? Blunt has no such attitude. She’s performing — mimicking — the dissolute appearance and manner of a theatrically flamboyant alcoholic for the audience rather than being an actual alcoholic as the camera watches her.
Poor Edgar Ramirez (Carlos, Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break) plays the most sympathetic, human-scale male figure in the film, and then poof….he vanishes in the third act.
The ending, to repeat, is ludicrous, like something out of Friday the 13th. I wouldn’t want to talk about it even if I were free to.
A friend who’s read Hawkins’ book informs that Rachel is described as having gone totally to seed — fat, blowsy, blotchy skin, her sexual allure out the window. But she’s so pathetic it’s funny sometimes, and she has a semi-ironic view of herself that’s more engaging than the way Blunt’s Rachel is portrayed in terms of dialogue and behavior. Thoughts?