The Girl on the Train is a book, and now a film, that has been compared to Gone Girl quite frequently. I wouldn’t necessarily compare the books together because they’re different -- mainly because one is an average page-turner and the other is a smart book that has interesting things to say AND is a page-turner. But comparing the films together is actually an accurate comparison; not in the way The Girl on the Train wants it to be, though.
The Girl on the Train follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), a girl (on a train!) who is depressed, an alcoholic, and divorced because her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) cheats on her with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who he is now married to. While she “commutes” into New York City every day(she doesn’t actually have a job, she lost that because of her drinking), she slowly develops an image of a couple she sees as she passes by their house: the perfect couple, the marriage she once had, what she aspires to again. She admires them everyday while passing, but it turns out they’re not perfect and that the wife (Haley Bennett) is cheating on her hubby (Luke Evans). The next day, the wife disappears and now it’s a mystery!
In the book Gone Girl, one of the most interesting aspects is the idea of the “Cool Girl,” the girl that every man wants because:
The movie The Girl on the Train tries to do everything I just mentioned. It tries to be hot (it’s not), tries to be smart (it’s not), it tries to be funny (it’s not funny intentionally), and it loves sex (well, that one’s still true).
What I’m saying is that Gone Girl is the cool girl to The Girl on the Train. It so wants to be like it. It wants to aspire to being an above-average, smart thriller. And it utterly fails.
The Girl on the Train opens with three different scenes of narration from three different characters, every single line of each separate voiceover being boring and unintelligent. The narration is supposed to show us 90% of what we need to know about the characters, which is just a dull thing to do, especially when it’s not done gradually. The small things we don’t know are given in ways that are completely ludicrous; there’s a scene where Anna tells her husband, Tom, that she misses being his mistress, being the other woman, being the girl that will eventually break Rachel’s heart.
In the book, she contemplates this same thought and immediately acknowledges that it’s an absolutely horrendous thing to have thunk and wishes she didn’t feel that way. In the movie, she basically just says (paraphrasing) “oh yeah, I wish I was screwing you on the side again because I enjoyed being the other woman.” WHAT?!?! WITHOUT ANY BUILDUP?? WITHOUT ANY SORT OF REALISM, WITHOUT SOUNDING LIKE A HUMAN BEING??
It’s this kind of writing that shows just how bad this script is. There’s nothing written here that feels realistic. Sometimes, the lines were so dumb I had to stifle a laugh.
The crappy narration and plot holes would probably be enough to make a bad movie, but the ending of the film kills it for me. Just like in the book, it turns out that Tom is the killer, and he’s kind of insane. He’s also slept with all three women. So Anna and Rachel kill him, everyone cheers, etc. and then we go to the police questioning the characters. Anna basically says that all of the girls were completely innocent and did nothing wrong.
Nothing wrong, huh? The alcoholism, the consensual sex (and marriage) with the crazy guy, the stalking that Rachel does to Anna and Tom, all of that and much more is nothing wrong?
Don’t get me wrong, Tom is obviously at fault here. I mean, he killed a girl and tries to kill another. But the fact that the film heavy handedly tells us that these girls did absolutely nothing wrong is not just dumb, it’s insulting. Can we not think for ourselves? Does your audience have a brain? Do you assume that everyone who sees the movie will like it just as much as the book?
Let me think of what I liked: Emily Blunt was good. Ummm… ooh, there’s this cool rain shot that’s reminiscent of this other rain shot earlier in the movie that subtly tells us that the girl is thinking about what happened in that first rain shot.
Yeah, that’s it.
The performances are phoned in to bad from everyone else besides Blunt. Danny Elfman’s score basically tries to carbon copy the electronic, creepy scores that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross do for David Fincher in Gone Girl, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and The Social Network. The movie lacks any ostensible aura of fun that the best thrillers have; in fact, it’s a slog to get through. Unlike the best films, the more I think about it, the more mad I am that a movie was made lacking any sort of intelligence, fun, or interest. This is the worst film I’ve seen this year, and I saw Batman v. Superman.