Someday, Emily Blunt, you will (at last!) get that Oscar nomination. I'm afraid, unfortunately, this again will probably not be the year.
Going into The Girl on the Train, adapted from Paula Hawkins' big, fat hit of a novel, I was expecting something of a pale Gone Girl imitation. Reviews for the picture, after all, were embargoed until a few mere days prior to release and when notices finally did surface, they weren't too flattering. Given the raves for its leading lady, I figured the picture might well prove a repeat of something like Mommie Dearest, where the brilliant Faye Dunaway was stuck carrying a gargantuan pile of trash on her shoulders.
Thankfully, The Girl on the Train is no Mommie Dearest. It almost never reaches the heights of the aforementioned Gone Girl either, but it is an entertaining, plenty watchable erotic-psychological thriller. The picture at times rings of Adrian Lyne adapting a Jacqueline Susann novel.
In the film, Blunt portrays Rachel Watson, a woman reeling from the end of her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux), who cheated on Rachel with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Every day, the alcoholic, blackout-prone Rachel passes by Tom and Anna's home while taking the train into the city but it is the sight of their neighbors Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) that really piques Rachel's interest. She views the seemingly madly-in-love Megan and Scott as an absolutely perfect couple. So, when Rachel notices something unusual at their home, involving Megan's therapist (Edgar Ramirez), and then Megan suddenly goes missing, she cannot help but investigate, even as she cannot trust her own memory due to all the boozing.
Blunt is flat-out fantastic in the picture, perhaps even more amazing here than in last year's Sicario, and anytime she graces the screen, The Girl on the Train is completely engrossing. When it comes to on-screen alcoholics, it's a turn right on-par with the legendary likes of Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend and Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway in Barfly.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film does not quite operate at the same sky-high level. Bennett leaves a strong impression as Megan but the other ensemble players - sans Allison Janney, terrific (as always) as the detective investigating Megan's disappearance - don't seem as invested. The picture sports a polished, gloomy look, not unlike Gone Girl, but rarely musters the same suspense as that film. Danny Elfman's score is a nice fit.
Ultimately, if I have to point a finger at a single person for not delivering a more all-around satisfying film, it would have to be the picture's director, Tate Taylor, who also leaned heavily on the strength of his cast to make something out of The Help. That film had half a dozen or so marvelous performances, which effectively overshadowed the lethargy of Taylor's direction. This time around, Taylor recruited a cast that, for the most part, wasn't so willing to do such heavy lifting.
With that said, The Girl on the Train is still well worth a look, for both thriller fans and to see Blunt operating at the top of her game.