By Troi Watts
The curse of being a cinemaholic: you’re really good at predicting what’s going to happen in movies. You want to like certain movies, but you just can’t ignore the fact that you’ve seen this plot a dozen times… in the past year. I’ve been there and that’s why when I heard people calling The Girl on the Train “the thriller that shocked the world,” I was hopeful. What kind of twist would Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) and Erin Cressida Wilson come up with? Would I be shocked?
The girl on the train is Rachel Watson, played by Emily Blunt (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Into the Woods), an emotionally damaged alcoholic who rides the local trains to and from New York City every day. During her commute, Rachel obsessively watches a couple she deems “perfect” and imagines their lives in order to escape her own messed up life. But one morning, Rachel sees the wife with another man and feels utterly betrayed. This leads her to drink A LOT, so much so that she blacks out for the rest of the day and wakes up the next morning covered in blood and bruises. This is unfortunate because it turns out that the wife, Megan Hipwell, went missing during that missing day. Rachel proceeds to stumble through the movie, searching for the truth of what happened that day and what happened to Megan. Was Rachel involved in Megan’s disappearance?
Spoiler alert: keep reading if you want the answer to that.
I really wanted this movie to shock me, like thrillers are supposed to, but it didn’t. The ending was a sad cliché that I saw coming as soon as I learned that Megan Hipwell was a nanny for Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom. Young blonde nanny + husband known for cheating = what? That’s right. Just like in every other movie containing a nanny and a married man, Megan was sleeping with Tom. The final nail in his coffin was the realization that Megan was pregnant. There is an obvious motive that points to an obvious murderer (yes, she dies, but that didn’t surprise you, did it?): Tom. This left the movie feeling anticlimactic and pointless. Sitting through a long hour and half just to find out it was the other man? That’s an hour and half you can’t get back, folks.
Spoiler alert over.
Another fatal flaw in this wannabe thriller is that there is no character development. Rachel is the character with the most depth, which makes sense since she’s the main character. However, she starts out as this crazy drunk and pretty much ends that way (honestly the movie ends too abruptly to see if she’s grown). Every other character is very two-dimensional; they aren’t given enough attention in the movie to be any better. Megan’s character is actually given too much backstory for her purpose. You learn that her brother died, she lost her first baby, and her husband is abusive, but none of it matters. None of that provides clues as to what happened to her, which is the main storyline. In all honesty, I believe Megan’s character story was completely unnecessary because of the fact that all of the clues, like her affairs and pregnancy, are easily revealed by other characters. Having flat characters and unnecessary ones make a movie feel busy and boring instead of thrilling and entertaining.
Was there anything good about this movie? Yes.
The acting was very well done. Emily Blunt plays a very convincing drunk. I could practically feel her pain when she acted hungover or injured. Her frustration with the police is palpable. It’s obvious that she really understood Rachel Watson. Justin Theroux, who plays Tom, did a great job switching from nice guy to killer. His smile radiates goodness and happiness, but there’s no smiling once he’s revealed to be the killer. His eyes really conveyed the anger of Tom and I felt on edge when he was acting violently. So I don’t blame the actors for this movie’s flaws. I blame the plot.
If you really enjoy movies that have cliché plots and shallow characters, but really good actors, then go see The Girl on the Train. If you’re like me and would rather be shocked and awed, don’t waste almost two hours and whatever you end up paying at the theater. See it or don’t see it. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.