Movie Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’ trashy despite Emily Blunt’s performance
“The Girl on the Train” wants to be “Gone Girl” in the worst possible way.
Much like the David Fincher movie it desperately apes, “The Girl on the Train” exposes the seamy underbelly of a suburban storybook marriage and the empty Restoration Hardware catalog of a life it entails. Additionally, “The Girl on the Train” borrows the dispassionate visual tics of Fincher’s cinematographer of choice, Jeff Cronenweth as well as “Gone Girl’s” penchant for detached, mildly apathetic narration.
“The Girl on the Train,” however, isn’t “Gone Girl.” Think of it as something similar to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in “Single White Female,” sure it looks a lot like Bridget Fonda’s character, but, eventually, it will start throwing puppies out of apartment windows and stabbing sleazy guys in the eye with a stiletto heel. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there is something off about “The Girl on the Train.”
Oh, and stupid. Very stupid.
Directed by Tate Taylor, the same middlebrow hack who gave us “The Help,” comes this trashy yet still very pretentious movie. Emily Blunt plays the titular girl on the train who, during her morning commute, fixates over the eerily public private life of a woman (Haley Bennett) who in spite of the fact that she lives in a huge, beautiful house, spends most of her days like a dog that sheds way too much and is forced to spend the rest of its days chained in the front yard.
At any rate, while riding the train one morning, Blunt notices the object of her obsession canoodling with a man who isn’t Bennett’s husband. Blunt, whose character is an alcoholic and bitterly divorced from her unfaithful spouse (Justin Theroux), sees this as a betrayal. Emboldened by a truly epic bender, Blunt makes her way to Bennett’s neighborhood to scratch her frenemy’s eyes out. However, Blunt wakes up the next day covered in blood and bruises with no memory of the night before. Did Blunt kill Bennett? It’s not immediately clear, which is why Blunt morphs into Drunklumbo to solve the case and possibly clear her name.
Aye, yi, yi. What a mess. Seemingly written by someone whose only contact with the outside world was a VHS copy of “Memento” that was accidentally taped over with parts of “Red Shoe Diaries” about halfway through its running time, “The Girl on the Train” feigns respectability with its shifting perspectives as well as a flashback structure that strives for something a bit more literary.
But these elements don’t add up to much and are undone by the unintentional campiness of its dialogue — Bennett’s idea of pillow talk is grizzly fun facts about trains ripping off people’s clothes — and by Taylor’s awkward direction, particulartly, the scene where Blunt gently drops a baby on the ground and then runs away with all of the gawky determination of SpongeBob running away from a spooky old ghost. It also doesn’t help that “The Girl on the Train” is capped off with a twist ending that is nearly Shyamalanian in its severe, plot-hole riddled incompetence.
What separates “The Girl on the Train” from “When the Bough Breaks” and other erotic thrillers in Lifetime movie drag is Blunt. First seen drinking vodka out of a sports bottle, her character is despicable but sympathetic. Played with a level of nuance that wasn’t found in Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay — who, to her credit, also wrote “Secretary,” — Blunt’s performance is fearless, heartbreaking and, to a degree, elevates the goofy film that surrounds her. Stuck in the phantom zone between trashy and classy, watching “The Girl on the Train” is like drinking a Dr. Pepper slushy out of an expensive Ming vase. It’s attractive but unwieldy and leaves you nursing a splitting headache.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘The Girl on the Train’
Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans
Director: Tate Taylor
Weekender Rating: WWV
Length: 112 minutes