Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

By Matthew Huntley

October 18, 2016

I wish I had a car.

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One can interpret The Girl on the Train in one of two ways: 1) as a silly, erotic piece of pulp with perverse imagery, blatant metaphors and an over-the-top climax, which collectively add up to a guilty pleasure; or 2) as a serious psychological thriller that eventually loses its way by succumbing to perverse imagery, blatant metaphors, and an over-the-top climax. The filmmakers never seem to make up their minds about how seriously we're supposed to take the material. Is it a lurid soap opera that exploits its themes of alcoholism, spousal abuse and sexism just to stir the plot, or is it a thoughtful drama about these subjects that we're supposed to talk about earnestly afterward? Whether or not the filmmakers have an answer to this question is beside the point, because either way, the movie doesn't make it clear, and by the end, it simply collapses.

Based on the best-selling 2015 novel by Paula Hawkins, the film's unabashedly juicy plot follows three different women whose lives are connected by...well, if I told you that, it'd be doing the movie a disservice, because one of its engines is revealing just how these women intertwine, so I'll refrain from giving away too many details. What I can tell you is the titular character, Rachel (Emily Blunt), commutes from a suburb located on the Hudson River to Manhattan every day, even though she has nowhere to be. She's an unemployed divorcee in her mid-30s who currently lives with her college friend, Cathy (Laura Prepon). She's perpetually drunk (which led to her being fired from her job) and she suffers from blackouts. On the train, she draws and drinks from a water bottle filled with vodka.


The reason Rachel rides the train every morning is because it passes her old house and she's able to observe her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Anna is the second major female character in this story, and unlike Rachel, Anna was able to conceive a child and she and Tom now have a baby daughter named Evie. Following a disturbing incident involving Rachel and the baby, along with Rachel's supposedly incessant text messages to Tom, Anna believes Rachel is a threat to her and her family.

You'd think Anna would be more concerned about Megan (Haley Bennett), the buxom, blonde twenty-something who currently works as Evie's nanny. She lives down the street from Tom and Anna with her husband Scott (Luke Evans), and even though Rachel doesn't know them, she also watches Megan and Scott because, based on the affection they show each other, she considers them "the perfect couple; the embodiment of true love."

But one of the recurring themes of this story, like so many stories of this nature, is that things aren't always what they seem, and we start to learn that Megan has a complicated history of her own, which she discusses with her therapist, Dr. Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), whom she's trying to seduce. And just like everyone else, she also carries a heavy secret.

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