by ETHAN PETERSON
The Girl on the Train
dir. Tate Taylor
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is great at drinking. I guess maybe it is just Emily Blunt who is fantastic at becoming inebriated. She sucks on this water bottle full of alcohol as she rides Metro North home to Ardsley-on-Hudson. This is great drunk acting, the best since Johnny Depp and he had a lot more training. I’m not exactly sure what she is drinking, but since she winces when she sips it we can presume the liquid is vile. The Girl on the Train is entirely recalled by an alcoholic, which means it is frequently unreliable and consistently repetitive.
Things start to pick up a bit when Megan (Haley Bennett) starts going out to have sex in the woods after sessions with her therapist (Édgar Ramírez). The therapist is a major suspect in Megan’s murder, because his questions are usually along the lines of, “How does that make you feel?” and his solution to most problems is to put his fingers in her mouth. When she does it the first time, he says, “Don’t make it difficult for us to work together.” When she doesn’t listen and continues to try to have sex with him, he begins speaking in Spanish.
Bennett is a marvelous actress with impressive range. She is a little too suited for most of these roles, which demand she project an unsustainable sexuality which is not really in her nature. “I’ve had a lot of different jobs,” she narrates, and informs us that the sex she has with her husband Scott (Luke Evans) makes her feel like a whore. Fortunately we do not have to think too hard about the implications of this, because Megan is a corpse.
This is definitely the Emily Blunt show. Blunt sort of gives up on the English accent about halfway through. (I guess maintaining it for half the movie was a concession to the novel’s original London setting.) The fact that life could be sufficiently indistinguishable in a suburb of New York as one thousands of miles away frightens all thinking people.
Rachel’s friend Cathy (Laura Prepon) gets tired of her drunken rages and kicks Blunt out of the room she rents her. When Blunt is drunk, she heads over to her old house where she lived with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux). Besides giving us a giddy anticipation for a future time when Jennifer Aniston will divorce Theroux and reunite with David Schwimmer as God intended, it seems like a mistep that Blunt’s real life husband was not in this movie to give it that extra edge of verisimilitude.
Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson smartly avoids incorporating any comedy into this milieu. This is not a single moment where we have a chance to think about how silly the whole thing is. Theroux is the only one who hams it up at all, and I think he does not even mean to — he is simply used to talking in that weird, husky voice to make himself seem larger than 5’3″. Instead of adding to Blunt’s emotional disarray, the direction itself takes no chances at all.
Theroux’s new wife, Anna, is played by Rebecca Ferguson, who looks like Haley Bennett if she went through a washing machine. She is worried about Emily Blunt lurking around her house, so she goes to a police detective (Alison Janney), who informs her that she has no case even though Emily Blunt briefly abducted her baby. The concept of a restraining order is presumably unknown to these people.
The movie kinda slows down a lot with Emily Blunt’s terrible investigation of Megan’s murder. After Megan’s husband is cleared, we get a few scenes with Alison Janney and Blunt where the film picks up a lot. In this one scene in a police station, Alison Janney is stroking Emily Blunt’s arm. It never got more exciting than that, even when they showed the murder in a ten minute scene.
At one point someone asks Emily Blunt if she has any hobbies or whatever. She can’t think of any. People without interests frighten me. I suppose she likes drawing — sometimes she sketches pictures of the people she loves. She has no other self-consciousness, and because she is so flimsy in comparison to all the other people in this story, you have to wish the worst on her. Anything else would be at the expense of something real.
Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.