Originally Published on Salty Popcorn - You Can Find Several Other Reviews By Jack Dignan Here As Well
With a narrative that intercuts over the course of a few months, we follow three different characters. The first, Rachel (Emily Blunt), is a severe alcoholic, so much so that she’s ruined her marriage and job by it, now spending her days riding along the train to New York and back, watching the locals and making up stories about their “perfect” lives. Our second protagonist is Megan (Hayley Bennett), a young woman just trying to live out a normal life, but the life she lives is one full of secrets, sex and lies. She works as the babysitter for our third protagonist, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who also happens to be the current wife of Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux).
When the book was first released, many claimed it to be the next GONE GIRL, and from the look of the trailer, they seemed to be right. It was giving off similar vibes, and hey, it even had ‘girl’ in the title. Unfortunately, however, this film is not the next GONE GIRL. In fact, it’s very far from it. It’s a shallow, uninteresting and lifeless film that tries so very hard to be good, but settles for mediocrity. It’s got certain similarities to GONE GIRL, I’ll give it that, but the way these similarities are handled here are to a much lower quality.
Hayley Bennett hasn’t really been on my radar until recently, despite having seen her in a number of films over the years, mostly notably MARLEY & ME and THE EQUALIZER. But after her performance in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN a few weeks back, and knowing that she was set to star in this, I’ve become quite fond of her, and once again, she’s great. The same goes for Rebecca Ferguson, who I only started to appreciate after last year’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION. While I didn’t actually recognise Ferguson in this at first, she is extremely good.
Let’s look at Rachel, for example. She is our primary protagonist, and while we do get stories told from the perspectives of Megan and Anna, they’re not given as much screen as Rachel does. She’s a struggling alcoholic, and it takes a very long time before I felt any sort of connection to her. She felt distant and out of reach, and no matter how much I tried to relate back to her, I simply couldn’t. It isn’t until early into the third act that I started to care ever so slightly about her, but she goes and ruins it shortly after, and I was returned to my state of uncaringness (Ed’s note: Is uncaringness a word?). Nobody in this film is remotely likeable, and no matter what the outcome of their story arcs was going to be, I wasn’t always rooting for a happy ending.
For the entire runtime, I wasn’t sure how I was meant to feel. They didn’t do a good job at conveying the mood, and whether director Tate Taylor (THE HELP, GET ON UP) or screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (MEN, WOMEN & CHILRDREN, SECRETARY) is to blame is a mystery. Neither the directing nor the writing is particularly powerful, and if it weren’t for the performances and occasional mystery, this wouldn’t even be considered an okay film. It would just be a straight up bad one.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN should’ve been one of the year’s best films, just like it was supposedly one of the year’s best books just last year. It has a lot going for it, especially the performances from all the cast members, and there are certain elements about it that I love, but it’s a film that almost feels a little too distant at times, not allowing the audience to be welcomed into the story, and it ends on an extremely dissatisfying note.