THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Review — A Slow, Disappointing Ride

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the girl on the train reviewThe Girl on the Train Review – By Staci Layne Wilson

The Girl on the Train is based on a bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, which is in turn a response to the wildly popular domestic violence murder mystery genre of page-turners. Gone Girl is the queen of them all, but books like You, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies also fall into that woman-scorned psychological thriller ilk. I love them all!

I wish I could say the same for the cinematic adaptation of The Girl on the Train. I didn’t hate it, but that’s because there’s nothing exciting enough about it to engender hate or any other kind of sharp opinion. It’s well-made, well-acted, and the story is well-told… but it’s presented in a humdrum and pedestrian point-A to point-B manner.

Rachel (Emily Blunt), a lonely alcoholic inexplicably devastated by her divorce from her cheating scoundrel husband Tom (Justin Theroux), spends her daily train commute fantasizing about a seemingly perfect couple (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) who live in a charming gingerbread-like house that’s on her route. She’s never met either one of them, but she’s dreamed up a whole romantic backstory that’s so much better than her own. One morning Rachel sees something shocking involving the wife from her vantage point on the tracks, and she becomes entangled in a haunting mystery that unfolds in the most extreme ways.

I realize a movie is not a book, but fans of the novel will notice the heroine never evolves as she did on the printed page. Book-Rachel comes to life because though she’s flawed, she turns her life around by making intense efforts avenge a stranger’s death. Movie-Rachel never gets past the deep flaws and semi-catatonic navel-gazing.

Given the material, Blunt’s acting is excellent and the supporting cast supports – Allison Janney is great as a suspicious homicide detective – but the direction and script make it all seem as exciting as waiting for a late train. Which is too bad… I’m not a huge fan of the director’s prior offerings, but I expected a lot more from screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Chloe, Fur). I could really see the kooky labyrinthine plot and the wildly inappropriate behavior by the characters veering into an homage to the devil-may-care cinema of times past (think: anything starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford). But, alas, that’s not what I saw.

Having said that, there’s really nothing wrong with The Girl on the Train. It lacks suspense, panache, or stylistic flourishes of any kind, but a lot of moviegoers don’t care about those kinds of directorial signatures. If you want to see a decently-paced thriller, ably acted, with a few red herrings and an ending that puts the screws to the villain, then you’ll be satisfied if not sated. Another plus: the score by Danny Elfman is layered and lush, adding a haunting quality to the imagery.

When all is said and done, this The Girl on the Train review says it misses the boat by not embracing the over-the-top potboiler parody it could have been, instead opting for Lifetime movie-of-the week blandness.

Rated R

1 hour 52 minutes

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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Review — A Slow, Disappointing Ride

By Staci Layne Wilson


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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on

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