JEANNE'S REVIEW

 

A year ago March, a group of my female friends and I decided to start a book club. The first book was my decision and I chose "The Girl on the Train". Paula Hawkins, a Brit, was coming to the U.S. to do a book tour, and her daughter worked in publishing. This young woman was assigned to squire Ms. Hawkins around New York City.

 

At that time it was late January and I'm not sure anyone could have predicted what a huge success the book would become. As soon as I read it, I knew it would be made into a movie --- it is that good. Even David, who rarely reads --- he prefers crossword puzzles --- finished the book in three days.

 

But I was horrified when I learned that Dreamworks had chosen to set the film in New York rather than outside of London. And, to top it off, they hired Emily Blunt, a British actress, to play Rachel Watson, the main character. Now, why they would do that remains a mystery to me, but after seeing "The Girl on the Train", it really doesn't matter all that much --- it's simply annoying.

 

Rachel is a mess --- she is divorced, lonely and an alcoholic. She takes the train through the bucolic suburbs into Manhattan every day, though we never see her at work. By the time she makes the evening commute, she is wasted. Rachel cannot get over her divorce from Tom (Justin Theroux) nor accept that he has a new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and a baby girl. During their marriage all Rachel ever wanted was a child.

 

To assuage her acute loneliness, Rachel watches a couple in a home, not far from where she lived with Tom, from her train window on each trip in and out of New York City. She fantasizes about their life together and their seemingly perfect marriage.

 

However one day she espies the wife, Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), kissing another man on the veranda of her home. This betrayal unhinges Rachel and her feelings are exacerbated when Megan goes missing.

 

Though I admire Blunt emphatically, and she does a terrific job portraying Rachel, in the book this character is overweight and slovenly --- not exactly a description fitting Blunt. At one point in the film, when Luke Evans, who plays Megan's husband Scott, screams at Rachel that he would never consider being with a woman like her, I couldn't help but realize how false that sounded. Because, no matter how bad the makeup artists try to make Blunt look, she still is beautiful. Casting an actress with a few extra pounds is a definite no-no in Hollywood.

 

The screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson is slightly disappointing. Hawkins' debut novel was a real page-turner --- one that you could not put down. Wilson's writing lacks a great deal of the suspense that kept the reader hooked. "The Girl on the Train" is full of twists and turns, but Wilson's tempo is not up to the task. The first part of the film drags a tad, and that can only be attributed to Wilson's interpretation.

 

The females in the cast, led by the formidable Blunt, are superb. Bennett recently starred in "The Magnificent Seven" and Ferguson had a nice role in "Florence Foster Jenkins". Both women complement Blunt's efforts with Ferguson coming across particularly convincing as Tom's bitchy wife.

 

Unfortunately, not the same can be written about the men in the cast. Edgar Ramirez, who was so great in "Hands of Stone", plays Megan's therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic, very convincingly. His is the only male performance of note.

 

Theroux is positively awful, with Evans a close second. Both actors overact to the max, but Theroux is especially egregious. In my opinion, he is miscast --- unable to convey the warmth of a loving husband, nor the realistic aggravation of a divorced man being harassed by his ex-wife.

 

"The Girl on the Train" is saved solely by Blunt's superior portrayal. It is by no means better than the book, but it is worth a look.

 

Opinion: Mild See It Now!

 

DAVID'S REVIEW

 

Yet another film based on a best-selling novel, and I'm happy to say I actually read the book. That also makes Jeanne, an avid reader, happy as well.

 

Director Tate Taylor ("The Help", 2011) and his cast do an admirable job of being faithful to Paula Hawkins' mega hit, "The Girl on the Train", although the early part of the movie is choppy, and not very engrossing. It does set up the obligatory drinking problems of Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt),whose daily train trips to New York City ultimately get her in deep trouble.

 

Although the filmmakers changed the original venue from London to New York, the location change is transparent. Readers of the novel should not be disappointed in that aspect. The film details the mysterious disappearance of Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett, most recently seen in "The Magnificent Seven"), and the subsequent investigation of what happened to her.

 

The women in the cast all shine. Blunt is her usual dependable self. She appears in almost very scene and clearly carries the film. Bennett has perhaps the most challenging role as a wife and sometime philanderer, a fact that compels Rachel to call Megan a whore. Rebecca Ferguson plays Anna, the wife of Rachel's ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux, best known as Jennifer Aniston's husband), and the mother of Evie, the infant girl whom Rachel is accused of abducting. Lisa Kudrow has a small role as the wife of Tom's former boss.

 

On the male side, Luke Evans effectively plays Megan's husband Scott. His frustration at being a suspect in his wife's vanishing act boils over into a tense confrontation in Rachel's apartment. Edgar Ramirez portrays Megan's shrink. Rachel's view from the train, of their kiss, versus the close-up we see later of the same sequence, could reveal two different perceptions.

 

It might be easy to say that Rachel should have minded her own business, but she has a vested interest in what she espies while riding the train. She is beaten down by her ex-husband; the police are constantly in her face. Allison Janney, who seems to be everywhere these days, is lead Detective Riley. Rachel has no job; and she drinks like a fish. Despite her low self-esteem, Rachel inserts herself into the lives of people she has never met because she inescapably feels compelled to do the right thing.

 

Rachel's vindication by film's end is perfectly exemplified by the silent look Blunt exchanges with Ferguson after the truth is known. It's one of those non-dialogue moments that is as memorable as any other scene in the movie.

 

As in the novel, the audience is privy to events that occurred from several months before, to the last day Megan was seen. "The Girl on the Train" is on a par with the highly rated "Gone Girl" from 2014, and builds to an unpredictable climax.

 

Taylor and his screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson ("Secretary", 2002) faced a daunting task living up to the standard and hype of the novel, which spent 15 weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list, a record 20 weeks atop the UK hard book charts, and sold 11 million copies worldwide. I'm pleased to report they accomplished their goal.

 

Opinion:  See It Now!