Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: The Girl on the Train

The big screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train, like Gone Girl before it, arrives with an inbuilt audience, Paula Hawkins' book having sold 11 million copies since it was published early last year.

A whodunnit combining deft chronology-juggling and a chain-reaction collision of three sharply flawed female characters, it made an absorbing thriller on the page.

It's less so on screen, even if it delivers a compelling title character.

That's Rachel, a 20-something divorced Londoner who spends much of her life in an alcoholic haze marked by amnesia-inducing blackouts, making her an unreliable narrator.

A scene from the film The Girl on the Train.
A scene from the film The Girl on the Train.

Played here with terrific conviction by Emily Blunt, Rachel may still be English, but this routine film treatment has shifted to the Westchester County outer suburbs of New York, and it appears to have lost some authenticity in the transatlantic trip.

There was something identifiably English about Rachel's sad, sozzled life and her fixation on the supposedly idyllic existence of a young couple, living in a terraced house in her old neighbourhood, who she observes from her train window on her daily commute.

Rather than the claustrophobia of a hot English summer, this takes place against an autumnal New York. Perpetually drunk or hung-over, Rachel's eyesight is still up to peering across Westchester's big backyards from her window seat.

Allison Janney stars in the film The Girl on the Train.
Allison Janney stars in the film The Girl on the Train.

If the setting isn't quite right and the optometry - beer goggles? - unbelievable, then there are other credibility gaps.

Like when detectives investigating the disappearance of Megan (Haley Bennett) - the woman Rachel kept voyeuristic tabs on - simply shrug when Rachel can't explain her whereabouts on the night she went missing. Or why she was back in her old neighbourhood at all.

But the cops do have to be a few steps behind so Rachel herself can play detective. Which leads her to difficult encounters with Megan's possibly grieving husband Scott (Luke Evans), as well her own former hubby (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) who live in her old house on the same street.

Considering her previous stalker-ish behaviour towards her ex and Anna - who bears a resemblance to the missing Megan - it could be that Rachel's investigations will reveal she's done something dreadful.

Fortunately, the way Blunt plays her, Rachel remains a compelling mystery of her own making throughout.

By the look of some shots, it's apparent director Tate Taylor had something classically Hitchcock-ian in mind - as might Hawkins when she wrote the book.

Emily Blunt stars in the thriller film The Girl on the Train.
Emily Blunt stars in the thriller film The Girl on the Train.

After all, the story involves Hitchcock's favourite mode of public transport, it's built on a Rear Window-ish premise and the Megan and Anna characters are two ice blondes.

The trouble is, for all that, this is a curiously suspense-free film and its eventual psycho-melodrama feels like it is just one bunny-in-a-pot away from reverting to a formulaic late 20th century erotic thriller.

Only Blunt's gutsy performance keeps The Girl on the Train on track while so much is trying to derail it.

Cast: Emily Blunt Haley Bennett Justin Theroux Rebecca Ferguson
Director: Tate Taylor Rating: R16 (violence, offensive language, sex scenes and content that may disturb)
Running time: 112 mins
Verdict: Popular thriller gets uninspired screen treatment

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 25 Mar 2017 15:57:45 Processing Time: 1084ms