First things first, the movie made based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins with the same title, doesn’t do justice to it. Done with that now, let’s just move on.
“The Girl on the Train” was boasted to be the next hugely successful – “Gone Girl”. It is not often a good thing to set yourself against one of the most successful movies/books during the year. This is probably one of the main reasons why the movie didn’t get the credit that it is deserved.
The movie is about a divorcee Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) who turns to be an alcoholic built upon from being unable to conceive a child. On the other side of the spectrum is Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), who is married to one of the most charming characters in the movie Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans), who is forced to have a child but couldn’t due to her forgettable past. We are then introduced to Anna Boyd (Rebecca Ferguson) who gets tangled herself between Rachel Watson and her ex-husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux). We were then bumped against a series of characters – Psychiatrist Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), a friend of Rachel Watson Cathy (Laura Prepon) and the man with a suit. These characters fit into the regular classic template of whodunit stories.
As noticed earlier, there are a large set of characters trying to fit into one single event across one single street. The linear narrative would make the movie way too much bland for anyone’s liking and so the screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (keep her loyalty towards Paula Hawkins) introduced two aspects – first, a non-linear narration and second, multiple points of views.
First: Non- Linear narrations: This is not the first-time non-linear narrations were used to create a sense of suspense, tension, and drama in cinema. We have a very well documented reference but the choice used in this movie makes it lost on the audience. The timelines were marked “Six Months Ago”, “Four Months Ago”, “Today” and “Friday” for a various chapter- based narration. So far so good. The issue is sticking to the chapters.
Frequent flash memories were used that extend beyond one scene. Cut on actress’ face it indicates movement to past memory- Scene – Return of present is the straight forward way of doing flash memories. Erin Cressida does way too much experimentation here. As we move to flash memory, the story extends beyond one scene and the references change which would require a lot of tracking to keep up with the movie.
Second: Multiple Point of Views: I am personally a huge fan of an event described through multiple points of views. The techniques generally used does two things:
- Return to the key event of the movie seen through the eyes of multiple participants and
- Multiple participants explain the sequence of events leading up to key event
“The Girl on the Train” tries to do both and in the process, loses control of the point of view in which the story is being narrated. Chapter titled “Anna” flips to Rachel’s view after a couple of scenes and the final revelation comes from the point of view of Tom, who is not even making a confession.
If not for these issues, the movie moves at a consistent pace, never stops moving and keeps us double guessing as to what would have happened (if not who did it). Emily Blunt is a huge booster to the movie. “She is wasted as always” but keeps her version largely consistent. Expressions align with the mood.
This movie offers something that is not most commonly used – eyeball movements. The most consistent performances delivered in the movie are through eyeballs – everyone does it brilliantly. Rachel when she hesitatingly looks at her house to find Anna, Anna during the third hang up from an unknown dialler and Megan’s line of sight when explaining how she lost her child.
Overall, Tate Taylor’s “The Girl on the Train” tries, to be honest to the book but gets itself lost in the way with too much experimentation. The inconsistencies in screenwriting make it difficult even for ever brilliant Emily Blunt to keep up.
R | Runtime: 112 Mins |
Direction: Tate Taylor | Screenplay: Erin Cressida Wilson
Cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Christensen|
Editor: Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland |
Distribution: Universal Pictures |
Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux