Year Released: 2016
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Just Theroux, Luke Evans
(R, 112 min.)
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
“I’m not the girl I used to be.” Rachel Wilson
Emily Blunt in the title role keeps this mystery from going off the rails with a compelling and credible performance. Sadly, the same cannot be said for her supporting cast, though it’s the script rather than their acting that is at fault.
Credible and compelling, but certainly not flawless. Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic divorcee who fantasizes about the “perfect couple” who inhabit the white Cape Cod house she passes daily on her train commute from Westchester into the city.
And the couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans), coincidentally perform their roles with aplomb, drinking wine at their outdoor fireplace, not at all reluctant with their tender embraces and kisses as the commuter car passes by them in full view. From Rachel’s seat on the train, at least, everything is as romantic and sexy as one of those scripted perfume ads we are about to be inundated with come this December.
Meagan is not shy about appearing scantily clad on her balcony, nor in the arms of someone definitely not her husband, again, just in time for Rachel’s booze-soaked gaze from the train.
And that gets the little lady quite upset. It’s not enough that Rachel has lost her husband and home – incidentally just two doors down – to a cheater who stole Tom away, but now even her calming fantasy has been degraded as well.
In fact, it is not just anger but a seething rage that ignites the tipsy Rachel as she gets off the train with intentions of confronting the cheating spouse she has seen. She wakes up in bed the next morning, injured, and covered in filth and blood. The lost hours are a blank.
When it turns out that that Megan has disappeared, those lost hours become a very big problem.
Adding texture, interest, or a somewhat confusing melodrama to our modern film noir, we have a separate narrative from Megan as she talks to her psychiatrist. Obviously, she is not the perfectly happy little wife Rachel pictured, but a confused and unfaithful woman, who uses her sexuality perhaps as a distraction. Her motivation never is quite clear.
In fact, most of the supporting characters seem contrived stereotypes. Ann (Rebecca Ferguson), the real estate agent whose curb appeal helped her close on the affair with Rachel’s husband Tom, is now the contented little mother, cooing over her perfect little daughter and spending her odd hours volunteering and making organic baby food. I’ve heard of real estate flips, but this character flip is not believable.
Nor does it make sense that Megan, who lives two houses down, works as Ann’s nanny. A nanny for a stay at home mother. A nanny who is in the same social class as her employer and has a house every bit as nice as Ann’s, if not a tad bit nicer. Very contrived.
The men do not fare well either. Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans), Meagan’s husband is a bit brutish and controlling as it turns out. In fact, his relationship with Meagan before she disappears is so strained as to make the romantic interludes Rachel has observed from her train car seem as bit ludicrous. Meagan says Scott is manipulative, but the audience will begin to suspect that it is we who are being manipulated here rather than Megan. Manipulated by characters who do not seem like real people but merely stick figures in a Potemkin village supporting an inauthentic storyline.
Dr. Kamel Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), the psychiatrist, never really asks probing questions. He more than skirts ethical conduct in his weak and naïve reaction to Megan’s sexual overtures and seems rather obtuse overall.
Tom (Justin Theroux), Rachel’s ex and Ann’s current husband, seems more the therapist, as he tries to keep peace between the former and current women in his life. The man who attempts to explain away what certainly appears as stalking behavior on Rachel’s part does not seem the wily cheating husband we know him to have been. Instead of the attractive male with two women desiring him, Tom seems somewhat neutered and bland throughout most of the film.
Most of the revelations in the character and plot seem artificial and strained, except for those concerning Rachel. The screenwriters have done their job with her. She may not be an admirable character, but she is believable. We may be surprised but never shocked at new disclosures about Rachel. With the others, the unveilings are awkward, just as these characters themselves are.
It takes a deft mystery writer to give just enough hints hidden in plain sight that an audience feels it is at fault for not suspecting the culprit sooner. As Agatha Christie said, it is the key to fine suspense.
The Girl on the Train may not quite achieve that, but you can still enjoy the ride.
Rachel recounts the episode that pretty much ended her marriage. After having too much to drink, once again, she goes into a violent rage at an office party and flips a whole tray of deviled eggs off the balcony.
Except it’s not just any office party. It is at the home of her husband Tom’s boss. And her act is witnessed by everyone there, especially the boss’s wife, who has a front row seat to the violent episode.
Too bad everyone misses out on those eggs because they really looked good. And from what I hear, at parties good old deviled eggs usually disappear much faster than fancier hors d’oeuvres.
Enjoy, but no flying trays, please.
Delicious Deviled Eggs
- 6 large eggs
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip (optional)
- Garnishes: paprika*; chopped fresh chives
- N/A fresh chives
Cover eggs with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking and let stand 5 minutes.
Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and mash in a bowl with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and cayenne and stir with fork until smooth, then season with salt and pepper. Fill pastry bag with yolk mixture and pipe into egg whites.