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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 9, 2016

The Girl On The Train Movie Review: A Very Contrived And Manipulative Thriller

‘THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN’ (honestly, we think ‘The Woman’ is better than ‘The Girl’, even in the case of the one with ‘the Dragon Tattoo’) is based on a bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins. It’s a murder mystery told from the point of view of the three major female characters in the story.

First is Rachel (Emily Blunt, “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Sicario”, “Oblivion”), the girl in the title, an alcoholic who rides the train to and from Manhattan’s Grand Central to their home in the suburbs in Ardsley on Hudson. She used to be married to Tom (Justin Theroux), but she couldn’t give him a child and that’s when she starts drinking. Tom then dumps her and she now sips vodka nonstop from her water bottle while on the train.

The second woman is Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett, “Magnificent Seven”), who Rachel sees from her train window. For Rachel, Megan is like the woman who has it all in her beautiful home across the railroad tracks. She is married to the hunky Scott (Luke Evans), who wants them to have a child but Megan doesn’t like the idea because of a traumatic experience she had when she was 17 years old.

The third woman is Anna (Rebecca Ferguson, who we just saw in “Florence Foster Jenkins”), the new woman in Tom’s life who now has a baby with him. She now occupies the very home where Rachel used to live with Tom. She hires Megan to be her baby’s nanny, without knowing this would lead to some deadly complications.

One day, Rachel sees Megan in the arms of another man, betraying her husband like she herself was betrayed. Soon after that, Megan goes missing and Rachel cannot remember what happened to her on the night Megan disappeared. She had a blackout and the only thing she remembers is that she got home with her arm wounded and her shoulder black and blue. She begins her own investigation and we viewers couldn’t help but feel: did she cross a very dangerous line?

From the outset, we as a viewer could not sympathize with any of the characters as they’re all very flawed and behaving badly. Why would we sympathize with an alcoholic like Rachel who deliberately makes the wrong decisions as an ex-wife and makes a mess of her own life stalking people like she’s in a bad version of “Fatal Attraction”? When she’s suspected of murder, we genuinely couldn’t care less what happens to her because she’s basically stupid.

And why would we sympathize with Megan who’s unfaithful to her husband and once accidentally killed someone so dear to her because of her own negligence? And why would we sympathize with Anna who cheated with Tom when she very well knows that he is a very much married man?

The movie is directed by Tate Taylor, who did such a good job in “The Help”, where the women characters are mostly sympathetic and not just because of their racial differences. Here, the film’s structure is told mainly from the three women characters’ viewpoint, but it also forays and shifts into an omniscient point of view where we are presented with situations and circumstance that may or may not have happened, and so, they’re not really reliable.

Other red herrings are thrown in with the intention of misleading us, like the presence of a psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), who could be Megan’s secret lover. And when we’re finally shown the truth, it comes off more as a way of cheating the storytelling. We felt like we’ve been played by the very contrived and manipulative script that becomes less and less convincing and more and more trashy as the story unfolds.

The acting is often quite fine, but we say that grudgingly. Blunt’s acting as the weepy Rachel appears like she’s begging for an award. She seems to be like forever under the weather, trying to hold back her tears. But her character is such an off-putting and unreliable protagonist we don’t think award-giving bodies would even give her the time of day. Sadly, both Bennett and Ferguson also play one-dimensional characters whose limitations they cannot transcend.