Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Girl on the Train: Exciting Ride, Slow Chug


For months after Paula Hawkins released her domestic thriller The Girl on the Train, readers and critics hailed her as the next great modern mystery writer. Now, over a year since the novel catapulted to the top of bestseller lists, these same readers and critics are asking a new question: how does the long anticipated movie adaption compare?

Much like its literary counterpart, the film The Girl on the Train ascended to immediate box office acclaim. This feat remains relatively expected, given a plot unrelenting in its evocative grittiness and a talented cast fronted by Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt.

Blunt stands out as the film’s strongest feature. She convincingly portrays unstable alcoholic and divorcée Rachel Wilson, eliciting a complex swirl of emotions as audiences grapple with disgust, sadness, empathy, shock and distrust towards the fascinatingly flawed character.

Overall, this jarring mix of realism and dis-likability of all the film’s characters is precisely what makes it impossible for viewers to take their eyes off the screen. We find out that the nurturing stay-at-home mother used to be a mistress. The stereotypically hot, young wife has a tragic past. A handsome, charming husband becomes a murder suspect when is possessiveness is revealed.

Source: IMDb
Source: IMDb

In short, the film’s scrutinizing lens emphasizes one key theme: everyone lies— especially to the people closest to them.

The Girl on the Train derives much of its suspense and horror from how easy it is envision. It doesn’t feel like an unbelievable tale weaved from exaggerations and plot holes, but instead pushes people’s horrible actions, regrets and hasty, breaking point solutions to the extreme.

Another intriguing facet of the film lies in it unfolding through the eyes of women. Viewers are exposed to the inner-lives of Rachel Watson (Blunt), Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), The Girl on the Train’s three split perspectives. These women all end up being connected by surprising, increasingly gnarled threads.

In fact, the film could probably spawn a book of feminist essays due to its interesting arguments about themes such as fertility, infidelity, and abuse.

Along with its unflinching gaze into character flaws, The Girl on the Train does not hold back in terms of dark imagery and gore. Viewers should expect detailed murder scenes that the camera does not turn away from and plenty of blood, which amps up the film’s intensity.

My only criticism towards The Girl on the Train is its dragging pace. The first half of the movie feels like backstory, complete with occasionally confusing time jumps. Then it tries to rapidly make up for this by cramming plot into the last climatic 30 minutes.

For those who have read the book, this overwhelming surge in plot towards the end will feel familiar. However, the film’s attempt is less tactful, and the steady hints that Hawkins incorporated throughout the novel are missing. The end result is a lack of satisfying resolution, except for a feeble voiceover by Blunt.

The Girl on the Train is a must-see for those who loved Gone Girl, those who search for character development in every storyline, and those who are unafraid to look at the twisted webs of everyday life with a microscope. Problems with pacing aside, the acting, plot twists and characters ensure that this film will be enjoyed for both readers of the book and a completely new, enraptured audience.


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