Emily Blunt Is Awesome Throughout The Girl On The Train’s Twisty Ride
Every day, Emily Blunt’s jilted, unemployed, alcoholic anti-hero takes the commuter line from the upscale suburb she exists on the edges of into Manhattan for the sole purpose of spying on her ex-husband and an ex-neighbour she’s developed an obsessive fixation on.
A trainwreck herself, we’re immediately shown that she’s long since jumped the tracks. The reason for her dramatic downward trajectory is revealed slowly over the course of a series of flashbacks: she can’t tick the final box on the ‘Having It All’ checklist. (No, not ‘Jet Ski.’ ‘Baby.’)
Convinced that her barren womb and alcohol-soaked existence drove her husband into the arms of a waiting blonde (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’s Rebecca Ferguson), Blunt’s character calls her old house and hangs up dozens of times a day.
Or does she? The Girl on the Train strives to mislead and misdirect its audience over and over again. Are the phone calls one example of that? Or aren’t they?
There’s a third woman in the story (Hayley Bennett)—a frustrated, former New York gallerina whose husband is pressuring her into having a child. A stint as a nanny has convinced her that motherhood isn’t for her (gasp! a woman that doesn’t want a baby!?), but that turns out to be more misdirection.
The three women are all connected, though they don’t all know it. Soon, infidelities begin to pile up, which of course means that someone has to die, duh. The rest of the movie is spent trying to figure out who, among several possible guilty parties, committed the requisite murder and why. Was it Blunt’s character on a bender? The hot-tempered husband? The less-than-ethical psychiatrist? The question drives our protagonist to quit drinking, then start drinking again. She knows she witnessed something, or did something—and she’s willing to engage in some incredibly risky behaviour to find out which.
A little bit Fatal Attraction, a little bit Gone Girl, this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-seller also owes a debt to Hitchcock. Blunt’s Rachel is a Rear Window-esque voyeur—making voyeurs of us in the process. It’s impossible to look away from Rachel’s self-destructive spin-out. As always, Blunt is an incredible talent—she gets us to identify with, judge, and hate her exasperatingly flawed character all at once.
The problem facing The Girl on the Train is that audiences might go into it thinking the film has something to say about women and their relationships to work, motherhood, their partners, and each other. It doesn’t. The ideas it offers up on those subjects are a little out of touch. Should stay-at-home moms be punished for having nannies? Is everyone in the suburbs the worst? Is motherhood still the apex of achievement for women? (Can’t get there? Might as well drink yourself to death.) Every character but Blunt’s is a cardboard cutout (even Allison Janney’s pitiless cop) and audiences are sophisticated enough to take on more.
Overall, this is a very fun and twisty thriller, but substance-wise, it’s the movie equivalent of an amusing paperback you buy at the airport to help pass the time… which is where you may have picked up the book it was based on.
The Girl on the Train opens in theatres Friday, October 7. Check out the trailer below.