Movie Review – ‘The Girl on the Train’

A total train wreck!  Using impulsive flashbacks and sluggish storytelling, “The Girl on the Train” never reaches its highly-billed destination. 

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

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Not every successful chart-topper on the New York Times’ Best Seller list translates into movie magic.  In 2014, avid readers watched author Cheryl Strayed’s true life adventure along the Pacific Coast Trail get mixed reactions after its theater release of “Wild”.  That same year, however, Gillian Flynn’s faithful book legions found her screenplay adaptation for the dark, disturbing “Gone Girl” a big-screen pleaser.  But as 2014 proved, a “must-read” page turner doesn’t necessarily foreshadow a “must-see” movie thriller.

Based on British author Paula Hawkins’ massively successful novel by the same name, “The Girl on the Train” stars Emily Blunt in a psychological whodunit comprised of cheating, self-sabotage and, oh yeah, murder.

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The Girl on the Train” starts with a slow roll-out of first names (Anna, Megan, Rachel, Scott and Tom), leaving us to sort out current relationships from old marriages and steamy affairs.  Assigning the “Who’s Who” of characters feels like assembling IKEA furniture with mismarked parts.  A nanny, a mistress, a roommate, a volatile hot head, and a few cheaters later, we find ourselves caring for no one and wanting to jump off this train at the next stop.

This movie was supposed to be Emily Blunt’s breakout headliner act.  She physically outperformed Tom Cruise two years ago in “Live. Die. Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow” and gained well-deserved applause.  Unfortunately, she followed up that groundbreaking role with an upstaged part in last year’s border war “Sicario”, never getting outside the shadow cast from the always brilliant Benicio del Toro.  Now, as the consummate drunk girl on the train in this sleeper coach, Blunt gets let down by a dry, monotone script that lacks any empathy and excitement.

A few problems emerge quickly in this non-shocker…even before Blunt’s first blackout from alcohol.  The slow, rambling introduction to ex-spouses and inappropriate doctor-client relationships grinds to screeching halt on the railroad as Blunt over-narrates this yawner.

Easily the film’s best feature, “The Magnificent Seven” cowgirl Haley Bennett departs the movie too soon, her character–and the storyline–left to decompose in the woods. Two underutilized roles are provided by The West Wing’s Allison Janney (as a blasé homicide detective) and now grown up Friends sitcom star Lisa Kudrow, who plays the wife of Tom’s old boss.

A bumpy movie ride culminates in a total train wreck!  Using impulsive flashbacks and sluggish storytelling, “The Girl on the Train” never reaches its highly-billed destination of suspense. Too much screen time is lost on the film’s manifest of unlikable characters to invoke suspense or concern for a drunk gazer sitting in the third train coach.  With that, a best-selling novel of words gets derailed by a big-screen narration of more words.

Grade: C-

“The Girl on the Train” is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity.  Its running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.

© 2016, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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