Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Girl on the Train: When Bad Movies Happen to Good Books

I keep going back and forth in my mind as to whether David Fincher's Gone Girl was a detriment for this movie. Even reading the book The Girl on the Train, there are a lot of similarities with Gone Girl in trying to find a girl who's gone missing, and having a host of untrustworthy narrators. It also doesn't help that Gone Girl is one of the best film adaptations to have happened in the past decade. By comparison, The Girl on the Train feebly delivers a watered-down narrative that could've packed a lot more punch.

The plot mostly centers on Rachel, a woman who turns to alcohol to deal with the split from her husband, who left her to start a family with another woman. To cope with her days, she rides the trains from the suburbs of New York into Manhattan, passing her old home and taking a particular interest in one of the neighboring houses, where a young couple seem to have the picture-perfect life. After seeing something from the train and going to confront the couple in person, Rachel experiences a black-out and, upon waking, learns that the young woman has gone missing. What follows is a tangled narrative as everyone tries to find her, and Rachel struggles to remember what happened that fateful night.

Hmmm, did I murder her...?

First of all, let's all acknowledge the fact that it's hard to squeeze an entire novel into a two-hour film. Books are fluid in that you become intimate with lead characters: you hear their thoughts, see what they see, feel what they feel, and are easily taken into their entire world. Translating that into something that is objectively visual and audial is tricky, and that's where this movie runs into trouble.

The book gives us an intense look at the private thoughts of three very different women: Rachel, our main character; Megan, the girl who has gone missing; and Anna, the woman that Rachel's ex-husband has started a family with. For reasons that I don't really understand, director Tate Taylor decided to eliminate almost ALL of the internal dialogue from the source material. Which is unfortunate, because honestly that's what the bulk of the narrative hinges on: the fact that people keep secrets from each other, and that you never know who anyone truly is.

"Are you a murderer?"
"Idk, are YOU a murderer?"

Since the internal dialogue is missing, the movie then cobbles together a narrative based on the characters' interactions, which leaves the story feeling half-assed and melodramatic. It doesn't help, either, that almost everyone (except Emily Blunt, that beautiful professional) is also a little too pretty in this movie. For themes that rely on the lives of normal people, we are presented with would-be Victoria's Secret model Haley Bennet as she gives a one-dimensional performance as the mysterious, artistic Megan, and beefcake Luke Evans who does his best as her angry, domineering husband, Scott. It reads amateur, almost like a Lifetime movie, where all of the characters are underdeveloped, overly made-up, and someone is always sleeping with someone else's -- wait a second, that's like half the plot of this movie...

It's actually kind of hilarious how well this photo could fit into
the plot of The Girl on the Train. Let that sink in.

I will, however, give a special shout-out to Emily Blunt. Blunt carries the bulk of this movie with a cringe-worthy performance as the constantly drunk Rachel. While it takes a while to understand her perspective, she ends up being a pretty sympathetic lead. Also, shout-out to her cosmetic team: her smeared makeup and puffy face made it hard to believe that she didn't spend at least half of her time on set being actually drunk. So...that's impressive.

5 outa 10. If this was a Lifetime that accidentally made it into theaters, I wouldn't have been surprised. As it is, I'm a little surprised that they gave such a popular adaptation to someone as green as Tate Taylor. Come on, buddy. You can do better.

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