By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — They could have called it The Lady on the Train.
Or they could have called it The Woman on the Train.
Why, they could even have called it The Alcoholic on the Train.
But who can blame them for the title, The Girl on the Train, not only because that was the title of the source novel, but because of the public’s high-profile fascination with Gone Girl, which similarly had a female central character and a narrator or narrators who may or may not be reliable.
You go, Girl.
The Girl on the Train is a boozy, suspenseful, character-driven mystery-thriller based on the page-turner of a 2015 best-seller of the same name by debuting novelist Paula Hawkins.
Emily Blunt stars as lonely, angry, and addictive Rachel Watson, an unemployed British alcoholic currently, and for quite a while now, crashing at a friend’s house.
Devastated by her divorce, she has become obsessed with a couple, played by Luke Evans and Haley Bennett. who live two doors down from her old house and whom she more or less spies on during her daily commute through the suburbs into Manhattan on the train.
It turns out that the couple she’s watching, Scott and Megan Hipwell, are actually neighbors of Rachel’s recently remarried ex-husband, played by Justin Theroux, who left her for the woman who is now his new wife and a new mother, Anna, played by Rebecca Ferguson.
Rachel can watch the Hipwells, whom she sees as perfect and happy, while continuing to stalk and harass Tom and Anna, which she has been doing ever since the breakup of her marriage.
As Rachel gets to know more about these two women whom she envies for what they have, we come to know them better as well.
And, no, they’re not exactly as they seem to Rachel.
Then one day, on the train, Rachel witnesses an act of betrayal on the Hipwells’ patio.
When she wakes up the next day, she is covered in bloody cuts. And Megan has disappeared and is presumed dead.
Meanwhile, Rachel, who is an immediate suspect in the eyes of Allison Janney’s investigating officer, can remember nothing that occurred the day before, but she tells her what she thinks she saw.
Be that as it may, Rachel may or may not have witnessed a murder and, more pressing, may or may not have committed a murder.
In going from page to screen, the director, Tate Taylor (The Help, Pretty Ugly People, Get On Up), and his screenwriter, Erin Cressida Wilson, have changed the venue from London to New York.
But they have left Rachel as an away-from-home Brit.
The flashback-heavy script is intentionally disorienting as it moves back and forth in time while the who-dun-it plot offers up an absorbing puzzle to be solved.
And while the third act doesn’t live up to the riveting first two acts leading up to it, it still gets by.
Blunt, in her first starring role that’s not opposite another big name, proves worthy of the responsibility, making it seem like a natural progression from recent action-oriented thrillers such as Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario. But now she gets to play a role in which she is drunk or hung over a good deal of the time,
This before she inherits the Mary Poppins role in the musical, Mary Poppins Returns.
As Rachel, Blunt puts her natural likability and charm in her back pocket and makes Rachel’s self-loathing, paranoia, and self-destructiveness palpable. And Blunt is well supported by Ferguson and Bennett as the three intriguing women in the three-pronged screenplay.
So let’s board 3 stars out of 4. An unsettling, pitch-black psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train is on the right track enough of the time to make you glad you took the ride.