At the movies: “The Girl On The Train”
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
* * * (B)
Directed By Tate Taylor
Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez
Universa, Rated R, Drama,112 minutes
Focusing on three women as its central characters, potential viewers may dismiss “The Girl On The Train” as a chick flick. It isn’t.
Adapted from the Paula Hawkins runaway bestseller, it’s neither a sudsy romance nor a comedy ridiculing silly female hang ups. It studies the effects of sexual relationships as they relate to love, for both women, and men, and examines how our life experiences influence self image.
Rachel, played with earnest immediacy by Emily Blunt, is our conduit into a chaotic world that appears to be neat and orderly. Each day Rachel boards a commuter train that passes through Westchester, New York. As an artist, she doodles while lamenting the woman she’s become. From the train window she passes close to the home of her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and the couple’s infant, Evie. Anna, once Tom’s other woman, now wanders through rooms filled with furnishings selected by Rachel. A few houses away, Rachel observes Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), an attractive, overtly loving couple — who seem to embody everything Rachel imagines marriage can be.
Rachel’s emotional turmoil leaves her unable to move forward. She feels guilty about losing her marriage because of her drinking, and two years on still uses booze as her coping mechanism. Daily, she revisits both her guilt and resentment during the train ride through her old neighborhood — whistfully studying both couples, but unable to find either redemption or resolution for herself.
The story then takes us inside Anna and Scott’s marriage. They are restless and unsettled. We learn that Megan, who has resisted having a baby, works for Anna and Scott as Evie’s nanny. Her husband Scott approves because he wants children, leading to frequent arguments between them. In explaining her predicament to therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), Megan says I’m surrounded by people, but I feel alone and disconnected. “I feel like myself only when I’m running.”
Sometimes, Rachel drunk dials Tom, or appears at his house. She takes liberties with the couple’s unattended child. In fact Anna awakens to discover Rachel in her yard holding Anna’s baby and tells Tom to call the police. He replies, “Rachel’s harmless. She would never hurt Evie.”
Both in the past as in the present, Rachel’s alcoholism leaves her extremely vulnerable. Staying in the spare room of a patient friend, Rachel awakens with cuts and bruises, and covered in an alarming quantity of blood, but — having been drunk at the time — she is unable to recall the previous night’s events. When someone she knows comes up missing, Rachel is beside herself with worry. She goes to the police, but her blackout leaves her incapable of conveying a coherent story. Detective Riley (Allison Janney) dismisses Rachel as an addict-addled nuisance.
Although the forgoing description may leave you wondering whether this story is anything more than a shaggy dog tale, “The Girl On The Train” works. It does so by taking the viewer deep inside its characters’ psyches, and revealing who they really are through their behaviors. Having known both vulnerable and alcoholic women, I recognized many of the dynamics at work within these couples.
“The Girl On The Train” may not be especially pleasant, but it’s thought provoking. It’s about ordinary people leading ordinary lives. It might be fair to call it a woman’s movie, but there’s much everyone can learn from it.
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