Thursday 6 October 2016

Film: 'The Girl on the Train'

Based on "the book that shocked the world" (by Paula Hawkins) trumpets the trailer. Is that so? I'd never heard of it.
I'd seen this trailer so many times over the last few weeks that it had just about killed off any curiosity I had about seeing the film. But rather half-heartedly, I went.

The plot is basically a 'whodunit?' - or, more precisely, what happened to her and was anyone else involved? But there is an unusual added dimension to this story viz. the narrator is a self-aware, struggling alcoholic, and Emily Blunt captures the character utterly magnificently. Rarely have I seen on screen so realistically displayed all the nuances of someone with a drink problem - every shade from slightly tipsy, to merry (with an underlying menace), through to being sozzled and violent with it. We also see her fully sober yet dying to have that drink, resisting even when she's offered one, as well as her first visit to an A.A. session. It was a remarkable performance which I really do think is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Divorcee (and childless) Blunt travels daily from Washington to New York on a train which takes her past her former house where her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) still lives with his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby daughter. Quite close to this house is another which she gets fascinated by because she can see a couple there through the windows or on their balcony (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett) who seem to be very much in love. It seems they represent the ideal relationship which the Blunt character wishes she could have had. All the while on the train she is sipping from what looks like a transparent water bottle, but which she has had filled with vodka. During her journeys her mind wanders to the past and therein, I think, is the weakness of the film. There are far too many flashbacks, not necessarily in chronological order, leaving me confused several times as to what was happening - and in addition, was this real or is it part of her alcohol-befuddled fantasies? The problem is further exacerbated by having the two women already mentioned having very similar long, blonde, wavy hair. Because I didn't know the two actresses involved I did now and again get confused as to which was which. But as I already do have a particular problem in recognising and remembering faces in real life, others may not have the same difficulty.
There is a third man involved, a counselling psychiatrist (Edgar Ramirez).
The Blunt character, having built up a picture of an ideal relationship for this couple which she notices daily, one day witnesses something that jars on her vision of presumed marital bliss. And, no doubt fuelled by alcohol, she can't keep her mouth shut, even though it's nothing to do with her. Then someone goes missing. The police are called in and, due to the drink, she has difficulty in recalling her own movements on the day of the woman's disappearance.

We do finally get to see what happened, and since the number of suspects is very limited - only the three men plus two women, one of whom is Blunt herself. (Was she herself involved during one of her regular blanked-out periods?) When the solution of the mystery is revealed it's hardly a shocker, though it is gruesome.

I don't know if the book contained as many flashbacks as are in the film, but I think the latter was weakened by having so many as to approach being exasperating, particularly as I found some of them quite confusing. 
Director Tate Taylor ('The Help', 'Winter's Bone') builds up tension well at a number of points. It's one of those films with cumulative suspense and it is achieved pretty well.
The major part of the honours for the film really must go to Emily Blunt though, in a role which marks her out as a really remarkable actress with great potential. I think she lifted this film, without which it would have been a  significantly less successful product...............6.5.   


  1. If the hurricane doesn't stop us, we're going to see this this weekend.

    1. You shouldn't find it a time-waster, Bob. Good luck with the weather!

  2. I'm glad you did a review on this because I had no idea that "The Girl on the Train" was now a film.
    The novel has been on the New York Times bestseller list seemingly forever.

    I haven't read the novel, but I've read many of the reviews - which are mixed. There have been some raves, but a lot of reviews also say that the book is boring and predictable (and a rip-off of "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn).

    Ironically, none of the book reviews mentioned flashbacks - so I'm inclined to think that they were utilized for effect in the film.

    I'm amazed at how little I know about recent films now that I live isolated in rural Tennessee. Thanks for keeping me updated, Ray.

    1. I'd recently heard that the book was riding high or even top of the book sale charts, Jon, but since I've only been able to afford to buy second-hand paperbacks from charity shops I've not followed the charts for some years. However, I have also heard that this film is a poor substitute for the book, the latter being widely praised despite your mention of some negative opinions about the novel itself. I've also heard unfavourable comparisons with 'Gone Girl' - both book and film.
      Interesting that there MAY be no flashbacks in the book, or at least they aren't talked about. It's a filmic device which is much too overused in all sorts of films in my view. Often it strikes me as lazy - and I've always felt that very few people in a cinema audience actually like them. More often than not they confuse more than they elucidate.

      I'm glad that I can assist in keeping you informed about new releases, though your visit here just underlines the guilt I feel about not visiting your own blogs more often. I always know when you've posted, but more often than not I postpone opening them up because I know they'll be profound and possibly upsetting - as for instance your recent cat post which I couldn't bring myself to read just in case....
      Seems I've got to get over this problem which, for me, is especially acute regarding your own blog. I've no idea what treasures I might be excluding myself from by not daring to just 'jump in'.

    2. Ray, I definitely agree that flashbacks are used far too often in films, and are more annoying than they are enhancing. I thought flashbacks were reasonably effective in films such as "The Pawnbroker" and "Dolores Claiborne", but they are exceptions.

      As for my blog - I should probably start marking my posts with a Raybeard Indicator. Green, if it's okay for you to read or Red if it's not.

      You probably wouldn't like my most recent post "Unhinged" because it's political. Actually I hate to taint my blog with political posts, and will try not to do it too often.

      Here are other recent "Safe" posts that you might like:
      "Saga of the Cats" - it's about how I obtained my three cats.
      "Welcome to October" - old photos of autumn.
      "God Damn a Rung" - don't let the title scare you. It's about Gotterdammerung and which singer is the best Brunhilde.
      "The Hollywood Pretty Boys and Me" - this post includes my very brief encounter with Rock Hudson.

      (sorry for the long comment)

    3. Thanks, Jon. But I really CAN'T have you marking your posts with an indicator just for me. That would be trying for you and intolerable for me. No, I promise you I'll make a greater effort to look at your blogs and if anything does upset me I'll just stop reading that particular post. Simple as that! And I'll post a comment (which I usually do in any case) to indicate that I've read it.
      However since you have above taken the trouble to point to which of your posts I might 'safely' read I'll go though those for a start - but I do earnestly repeat my request for you not to do what you've so kindly 'threatened' to do. That really would make it unbearable for both of us. Thanks again anyway.

  3. I'm going tomorrow so didn't read your review, will compare notes then

    1. I'll be especially interested in your view of this, J.G., being as you are, a particularly discerning, cinema-appreciative blog-pal of mine.

  4. I admit that in certain circumstances I get confused as to who is who? Glad you touched on this subject.

    The book remains on my bookshelf where it has been for many months. Don't know if I'll read before seeing the film or after.

    Your mention of Luke Evans makes me want to see this. Saw him in a film, some call weird, "High-Rise" and he made a very good impression on me.

    Have to make a choice this weekend: "Girl On A Train" or "The Birth Of A Nation."

    Hope your next review will be "Birth."

  5. The defect about not recognising people has always been part of my everyday life, Paul. I've had numerous embarrassing experiences involving it - most especially someone from work greeting me on the street and I don't know who they are outside the work environment, resulting in my getting a reputation, I think, of being 'snooty'. But it's also happened with relatives, which is worse, though there at least I've got the opportunity to explain myself.
    The same trait appears in film for me, more especially with women than men.

    I did see 'High-Rise' (and scored it a '6') and that was probably the first time that I saw Luke Evans, though clearly I'd forgotten him.

    'Birth of a Nation' hasn't opened here yet, and there's no British release date announced. It's entirely possible it may not be released here. I see on IMDb it's got an abysmal average rating so far of just 4.9 - which doesn't necessarily mean anything.

  6. Right
    I enjoyed it.
    I didn't recognise Rebecca Ferguson ( I liked her in the last mission impossible movie) and Haley Bennett reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence from winters bone.......strange that as bone and train have the same director)
    Anyhow...the film does hold the attention, which is a difficult thing given that not one character is totally sympathetic.
    Blunt is exceptional, I agree. She holds the film together. Ferguson doesn't have a great deal to do which is a shame and I did like Alison Janney's shopworn detective

    1. I'm pleased that you saw it and liked it, J.G., but even more pleased that you went while holding off from reading my post above. I wouldn't like you to have been swayed either way by what I said.
      I read somewhere that Blunt's portrayal of an alcoholic under the influence wasn't anywhere near as accurate as some have described - no bumping into objects, no slurred speech with getting words wrong, no sudden giggling etc. It may be so but I did think that she was the only character in the film whose presence was hypnotic. Just about everyone else was, to me, forgettable - well, maybe not the hottie psychiatrist.
      It seems that many of those who are down on the film are those who have read the book and are disappointed, not least by moving it from England to the U.S.A., but those of us unfamiliar with it have less problem with the location change.
      I wouldn't quarrel with your score but, two days later I'll still hold to mi lesser one, and can't say I'd particularly wish to watch the film again.

    2.'s not that kind of movie....I probably not re read the novel either!

    3. So your one of those who had read the novel AND liked the film? I don't think there can be many like you. If I do see it on a second-hand paperback charity stall I'll certainly pick it up. I'm intrigued to know what all the fuss was about.

  7. Ray, I am so thankful for your reviews because you tell me what a film is really about. I too have seen many of the trailers of this film which piqued my interest. But trailers aren't always a good indicator of a good film but you Ray, I can trust. I like Emily Blunt. First time I saw her was in "The Devil Wears Prada". I didn't know who she was then but I knew she was good.
    Thanks again for another very helpful review. You're the best Ray!

    1. Thanks again, Ron - with the stress on 'again'.
      Emily B. is one of the leading British actresses of recent years to be doing our country credit - and I'm pretty sure she has great potential for the future. And, as I say, she's the star, in the proper sense of the word, of this film.

      With a landmark day coming up for me in a week's time I'm still thinking seriously of giving up these film reviews. When I do it's unlikely to be for a little while yet but I just tell you to make the most of them while they're still coming. I'll give a warning when they are to stop.

  8. Replies
    1. I'll still be going to the cinema for as long as I can, Ron, but will start being even more selective than I already am - as well as going out of my way less to catch something than I do. It's all getting a bit too onerous. But, as I say, it won't be for at least a little while yet.

  9. Replies
    1. Thanks, J.G., but if I do stop in the near future it won't be for any light reason.

  10. Replies
    1. Just seen it, J.G. I do wish I had your talent for being concise.

  11. Catching up on my blog reading...I must go see this movie. I read the book, and--oddly enough--although I liked the writing, I most decidedly did not like the characters (especially Rachel, who I found to be such a wimp [for want of a better word]). I do like Emily Blunt, however, and have heard nothing but rave reviews about her. (And the phenomenal Allison Janney, of course.)

    Hope you are feeling better!

    1. It seems that film as well as book contain only unlikable characters, Elle, which makes it something unusual. The more I hear about it the more I want to read the novel, which I will as soon as I can find a second-hand paperback somewhere. But in the film Emily Blunt is as good, or better, than ever.

      I'm 'feeling' fine, thanks - even though from my looks, if I happen to open my mouth, it still looks pretty ghastly. But no pain, thank goodness.