Sometimes a marketing campaign is so good, so well-crafted, that it would be hard for a movie to live up to it’s own hype. Perhaps that is the case with The Girl on the Train, the new film directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) that was incorrectly marketed as the most shocking, sexy and dark thriller of the year. Honestly, I think the murder-mystery is the weakest part of the film by far.
Emily Blunt stars as Rachel, an alcoholic woman who has nothing better to do than ride the train to New York and back every single day. During her daily commute she gets a glance at the life of Megan (Haley Bennett), a woman who seems to have it all. A beautiful home, a great boyfriend, passionate love – things Rachel used to have and longs to have again. She also gets a peek at her old home, now inhabited by her ex-husband, his mistress-turned-wife Anna and their baby girl. One day Rachel notices Megan with another man and is filled with rage, describing to a stranger at the bar how much she wishes she could hurt Megan. Within a couple of days Megan goes missing and Rachel has no memory of the night she was last seen. Did Rachel commit a horrible act, or is her mind playing tricks on her?
Lets get the most important thing out of the way first – Emily Blunt is amazing in this movie. Her portrayal of Rachel is multi-faceted and committed. It would have been easy for Blunt to slip into the “movie drunk” clichés that so many have in the past, but instead Rachel always feels like a real and complex character rather than a joke or a stereotype. She is a deeply damaged woman and Blunt makes it impossible not to feel for her, even if she does some things that are less than admirable. The rest of the cast is good, too, but Blunt is the clear stand-out.
The mystery itself is relatively easy to solve as we really only have five characters, with one becoming the clear murderer pretty early on in the movie. If what you are looking for in the film is solely a great murder mystery I think you will be deeply disappointed. Instead, Girl on the Train is a commentary on how our assumptions vary from reality and how much stake women can put in what others think about them.
In the end, the movie is empowering and refreshing in an unexpected way. It is nice to see a movie with such deeply flawed and complex female characters, and I welcome more movies like this with open arms. Emily Blunt is incredible in the film and continues to impress more and more with each performance she puts in. If there is any justice in the world, she will be nominated in spades come Awards Season.