Train in Vain 

A drunk detective riding the railroad just can’t stay on track

Despite good performances from a cast that includes Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux and Alison Janney, director Tate Taylor's The Girl on the Train winds up being a little too ridiculous for a movie that wishes to be taken seriously.

Blunt spends much of the movie blotto drunk as Rachel Watson, a slurring alcoholic who aimlessly rides a train to New York City everyday, spying on the people living in her former house, as well as the neighbors. Rachel is divorced from Tom (Theroux), who seemingly couldn't take Rachel's drinking ways, and their inability to have a child. Tom is remarried to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), they have a child, and they would really like Rachel to stay away.

Tom and Nancy's nanny, Megan (Haley Bennett), lives nearby with her husband (Luke Evans). Rachel spies on them in their most intimate moments as she races by on the train, envying what she sees as the perfect young romance. Then, Nancy sees Megan with another man, setting off an odd, drunken tailspin that results in her getting involved in the drama when Megan goes missing.

So, for starters, I'm just not down with this premise. A deliriously drunk woman is able to decipher the goings on inside homes as she races by in a train. Yes, sometimes the train slows down, and she does know the inhabitants somewhat, but this is a highly unlikely plot gimmick that's stretched out to unrealistic proportions. Then she gets involved with the missing woman's husband, and eventually finds herself a target in the investigation.

Rachel is the most unreliable of characters, constantly blurred by hard alcohol she's slurping from a sippee cup. The script calls for many of her observations and actions to be unreliable due to her constant intoxication. She blacks out, loses time, and even has other characters telling her lies to convince her she's behaving abnormally. And, yet, she's able to put together key elements of a woman's disappearance while racing by on a train with a blood-alcohol count in the stratosphere.

Sorry, sometimes scripts just ask me to go to places I can't go, and I couldn't go along for the ride on this one. I found it too silly. Too much of this movie calls for the viewer to accept some unrealistic circumstances and situations in a movie based in reality.

Did I still enjoy the movie on some levels? Yes, somewhat. I like how Emily plays inebriated in this movie. She's a total mess, but she keeps herself sympathetic. Theroux is great as the confused, protective ex who pleads with his current wife to cut Rachel a break, up until the point where he can no longer defend her. Janney is awesome as the grinning investigator who doesn't buy Rachel's story. I want another movie with her as the main character.

There's a big mystery at play here, and the answer to that mystery becomes obvious perhaps earlier than Taylor suspects it does. Still, I liked how the mystery played out, and the performance opportunities it leads to for some of the performers. Some of the cast gets to go to truly dark places, and they do it well.

On a technical level, this is a very good-looking movie, creepily shot by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, with a terrific score by Danny Elfman. Even though his movie goes to some goofy extremes, Taylor clearly knows how to get strong performances from his cast, and he's assembled a nice one.

The Girl on the Train has its problems, but it isn't a complete waste of time. See it if you are a Blunt fan, and if you are a fan of the book. If you haven't read the book, could care less about Blunt (strange, but possible) and like your thrillers a little more plausible, this one might not be for you.

More by Bob Grimm


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