When it comes to the new suspense flick Girl on the Train, spoilers are not an issue. This is largely due to the fact that practically everyone on planet Earth read the Paula Hawkins novel on which the film is faithfully based when it became a runaway bestseller last year. But it is also the case because even though this adaptation is a full two-hours long, there isn’t enough character development amid all the sinister twists and turns to make viewers actually care whodunit. The exception to this critique is the film’s star, Emily Blunt. Her unglamorous, bleary-eyed portrayal of central character Rachel Watson — a blackout drunk whose lost evenings coincide with a mysterious disappearance — single-handedly saves what is otherwise a long, circuitous slog.
At the outset of the film, Rachel is introduced as a sad, lonely divorcee who entertains herself during her daily rail commute into New York City by imagining the lives of the people who occupy the houses that line the train tracks. One couple in particular — a young, attractive, affectionate pair (played by Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) whose house is just a few doors down from the one she once shared with her ex (played by Justin Theroux) — capture her imagination. But when the wife of that seemingly happy, perfect couple goes missing, Rachel’s interest in them deepens into a dangerous, vodka-soaked obsession.
It’s great to see a celebrated work by a female novelist get a Hollywood makeover by an equally lauded female screenwriter (Erin Cressida Wilson). And in a cinema landscape where big-budget thrillers rarely center on women, it’s a treat to see a masterful actor like Emily Blunt carry an entire film. Unfortunately, the subtle character development that fueled the novel, especially in regards to the supporting characters, wasn’t able to make the jump from page to screen. And as a result, the big reveal at the end doesn’t live up to all the build-up.
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Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.