If you look up Gillian Flynn’s brilliant crime noir Gone Girl on Amazon, chances are the site’s generator is going to recommend that you also check out The Girl on the Train, a slow burn mystery by Paula Hawkins. You’ll know straightaway that both stories are being sold as part of the same brand of bestselling thrillers.
While their plots differ significantly, the books, and by extension their film adaptations, share a number of thematic parallels. Namely: The chilly visual tone, the use of unrealiable narrators as a plot device, and the mysterious disappearance of a restless blonde at the centre of it all. But The Girl on the Train falls short of the twisted sophistication of Gone Girl.
Emily Blunt plays a broken-hearted alcoholic named Rachel who travels to and from New York City on a train every day. While on her journey, she snoops on a specific row of grand-looking houses lined along the tracks and becomes fixated with a beautiful blonde named Megan (Haley Bennett, last seen in The Magnificent Seven remake) living in one of them.
We soon learn that Rachel’s obsessive tendencies are linked to the fact that Megan and her husband Scott (Luke Evans) are actually neighbours with Rachel’s ex-husband (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna (Mission: Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby.When Megan inexplicably vanishes, Rachel becomes embroiled in the investigation that may lead to grave consequences.
While I personally find The Girl on the Train to be wanting in comparison with Gone Girl, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. In spite of the saggy middle, the film is fairly engrossing as it is able to hold our interest until the big reveal towards the end.
Also, as always, Blunt delivers a tour de force performance and we’re compelled to root for her even when she’s playing a sad, boozy, and delusional loner who looks like she might smell bad. The rest of the cast perform admirably and let’s face it – they’re all easy on the eye!
But what makes The Girl on the Train fall short of being a great film is that it’s a simple, more straightforward thriller with a plot twist you see coming from a mile away.
And while its feminist subtext has worthy things to voice about female camaraderie in the face of male aggression and control, and its damaging effects, it doesn’t quite add to the discourse. It’s a throwback to less subtle girl power thrillers like Double Jeopardy, Sleeping with the Enemy and even way back to the era of Bette Davis, when films about the transformative powers of strong female protagonists who suffer and overcome the odds became more prominent.
I think that stories about women have come a long way since then, so with something like The Girl on the Train, it feels like we’re kind of backtracking a bit.
The Girl on the Train is playing in Singapore now. Tell us what you think of the movie!