‘The Girl on the Train’ shows darker side of suburbia

girlontrainposterThe mystery genre is full of stories capitalizing on the words of unreliable witnesses to crimes. “The Girl on the the Train” puts a different spin on this concept by having the main character be an alcoholic who often wants to be a witness but can’t remember if she actually saw anything or not.

Rachel Watson (played be Emily Blunt) misses her idyllic life married to Tom Watson (played by Justin Theroux). But that’s gone. He’s remarried to Anna Watson (played by Rebecca Ferguson), and the two have a child together. Rachel spends her days riding the train into town from her suburban home while sipping vodka in order to keep the shakes and memories at bay.

On these train rides, going to an imaginary job to keep her roommate content about her ability to continue to pay rent, Rachel imagines what life could have been by staring out at the rows of houses along the train tracks. Her former home is there, along with her ex-husband and his new wife. A couple houses down is the home of the ideal couple. Rachel gives them names and imagines how their lives are progressing. She becomes close, even intimate, with them without ever meeting them for real.

That perfect couple in Rachel’s eyes is actually Scott and Megan Hipwell (played by Luke Evans and Haley Bennett), and Megan goes missing. Rachel is an obvious suspect because she is often seen in the neighborhood while being drunk because of her hobby harassing Tom and Anna. Rachel doesn’t think she could ever hurt someone she considers a friend, but, the night of Megan’s disappearance, Rachel was in rare form. She remembers nothing except she woke up bloodied and dirty.

This sets off a series of events in which Rachel attempts to remember. Along the way she lies her way into quasi-friendship with the prime suspect, attends therapy sessions for dubious reasons, alienates her roommate and makes a new ally, all culminating in surprise revelations about Megan and several others.

“Girl” proves to be a slowly opening flower. Each new development leads to the next until everything is exposed. The twists are turns are fun, and even when you think you might have it figured out, you can’t be sure until the end when everything starts to fall into place.

This movie isn’t a masterpiece by any means. It is just a good bit of entertainment based upon a wildly successful novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins. I had read the novel months prior, and I enjoyed it. It drug on in a few places, but it truly built up the suspenseful twist ending. The movie does an OK job of this. The format allows for the slower parts of the book to sped up, but the movie did seem to rush the suspense toward the end.

None of the characters are likable. However, as the story begins to progress, you do feel a bit of sympathy for a few of them. For me, this was particularly the case when it came to Rachel and Megan.

One glaring difference between the book and the movie was the setting. The book was set in England, but the book was set in New York. I don’t know why this change had to be made, but it worked well enough because the point isn’t the setting. The point is how nothing is at it seems.

The book came out in January 2015, following the success of the June 2012 bestseller by Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”. These two mystery stories are undoubtedly going to be compared, and it makes sense. Both have leading female characters, and both highlight how even if people seem perfect on the surface, the truth is usually vastly different. However, you can’t compare them directly.

“The Girl on the Train” focuses on Rachel’s life spiraling out of control and her inability to remember what happened, even though she knows deep down she was present at Megan’s disappearance. She doesn’t know if she was involved or not. In “Gone Girl,” the story centers on a marriage in trouble and only the victim truly knows what happened. Similar, but these are key differences that cast an entirely different light on the situation.

“The Girl on the Train” is rated R for its language, nudity and adult situations. It has a runtime of 1 hour, 45 minutes. It isn’t a family movie, but it would make a great date-night flick. This is one psychological thriller you should see. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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About toddvogts 773 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I am an assistant professor of media. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm a published author and journalist. Visit my website at www.toddvogts.com and follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/toddvogts.