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"THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN"
(2016) (Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramatic Thriller: An alcoholic woman who's prone to blackouts tries to figure out if she might have killed a young woman while mistaking her for her ex-husband's new wife.
PLOT:
Rachel (EMILY BLUNT) is an alcoholic woman whose life was upended a few years back when her then-husband, Tom (JUSTIN THEROUX), left her for his assistant, Anna (REBECCA FERGUSON), to whom he's now married with a child. It doesn't help that Rachel travels past her old house via a commuter train each day, but while she's still fixated on Tom and fantasizes about violence on Anna, she's become obsessed with the life of a young woman just a few doors down.

And that would be Megan (HALEY BENNETT), a young woman who bears something of a resemblance to Anna and who Rachel never met but imagines must have a perfect life with her husband, Scott (LUKE EVANS). But what Rachel doesn't realize is that Megan isn't happy in her life or marriage, something she relates to her therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (EDGAR RAMIREZ). And being employed as the nanny for Anna and Tom isn't working out either.

When she goes missing, Rachel pretends to be a work friend in order to meet Scott, something that draws the attention of Det. Riley (ALLISON JANNEY) who's investigating the case and casts a suspicious eye on Rachel as well as others who may or may not be involved. As that occurs, Rachel -- who suffers from blackouts due to her drinking and fragile mental state -- tries to figure out if she might be the actual culprit in that disappearance.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I've only lost consciousness twice in my life (at least that I know of). The first time was in elementary school when a game of kickball resulted in a ball hitting my leg while I was in the air. It flipped me over, I landed on my head on a storm drain (standing in for second base) and while I don't recall the impact, I do remember waking up to find everyone standing around me in a circle.

The second was in college during a sorority dance where I mistakenly used rum and cokes in a desperate attempt to cool off the winter-based, overheated inferno of the dance hall. I have no recollection of what happened after that beyond waking up the next day in my dorm bed. I somehow walked there from the dance but have no memory of doing so.

That and the resultant hangover have prevented me from ever drinking that much since then. But it does make me wonder what transpired in those lost moments and marvel at the thought that I could still function, to some degree, during that blackout. Did I go quickly into the night or did I make some sort of scene. I'm guessing nothing too bad happened as I didn't wake up in the local police station or have them come knocking any of the following days asking where I was and what I was doing that night.

With that in mind, I can see the potential in writing a story about what may or may not have happened when a character is in that state. I have no idea if author Paul Hawkins came to that same point in her life, but that was the kicking off point for "The Girl on the Train," the scribe's 2015 novel about an alcoholic woman whose life has been turned upside down by her husband dumping her for another woman. As she passes by her old house every day on the train, Rachel glares in the direction of the infidelity while gazing at what appears to be an idyllic life just a few doors down. With each pass she becomes increasingly obsessed on both fronts, eventually leading to a pivotal and likely quite bad incident.

I didn't read the work, but I can certainly understand the attraction of turning it into a movie, and now it has been in a film by the same name where Emily Blunt stars as that troubled woman. The script -- by Erin Cressida Wilson -- is of the unreliable narrator variety where we have voice-over narration from her about her state as she's introduced, followed by the same for the characters portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett.

They play the original "other woman" and her married neighbor nanny respectively, and as things play out, one of them ends up missing and likely dead. Knowing she experiences blackouts, Rachel then tries to determine if she might be responsible in some way, particularly since she followed one of the women -- who bear a passing resemblance to each other -- into a highway tunnel but doesn't recall what happened next. That is, except for coming to later in her bathroom, with blood on the side of her head and clothing.

Rather than have that play out chronologically, Wilson and director Tate Taylor tell the tale in a nonlinear fashion, with on-screen titles alerting us about what time period we're witnessing at any given moment. It's a decent setup, and in a way it somewhat resembles "Gone Girl" in that the non-linear story features a woman who goes missing amidst infidelity, anger and a likely suspect who we, as the viewers, can't be sure of being guilty or not. Here, we have three potentially unreliable narrators, and thus it's up to the audience to try to figure out "whodunit" before the film's back and forth,112-some minute runtime runs out and the culprit is revealed.

I'm guessing many a viewer will correctly solve that before that conclusion, although that doesn't necessarily rob the film of its genre pleasures. And yes, it starts to devolve into a soap opera of ever more revealed affairs, strained marriages (with Justin Theroux and Luke Evans playing the two husbands who aren't as nice as they initially seem), a shrink (Edgar Ramirez) who may be too involved with one of his patients, and a cop (Allison Janney) who's trying to piece everything together.

But, for the most part, it works and is engaging enough to keep most viewers interested to see how things play out. The performances are good (especially from Blunt, considerably glamming down her looks to play this emotionally fragile woman), as are the tech credits across the board.

While it might not be as slick or well-constructed as "Gone Girl" in its plot and character deviousness, "The Girl on the Train" is a decent enough ride for those who like trying to solve cinematic puzzles where the filmmakers have scrambled things up to make that task a bit more difficult. The film rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed October 4, 2016 / Posted October 7, 2016


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