Emily Blunt—who I first loved in The Edge of Tomorrow—is a remarkable actress. Having known a number of alcoholics in my life I was blown away by her deeply affecting and honest portrayal. She had that fuzzy, slightly off-kilter, booze-fueled desperation down. The alcoholic haze that makes Rachel a perfect unreliable narrator.
What did she see? What did she do? Director Tate Taylor and the camera—via director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen—expertly puts us in Rachel’s shoes, allowing us to see just what Rachel sees, going back and forth from the present day to the past, slowly unraveling and revealing more clues as Rachel gains clarity. While initially we’re as turned off by Rachel’s constant state of inebriation, as disdainful and dismissive as Allison Janney as Detective Riley, Blunt’s performance works its way into our hearts. I was genuinely touched, hurt for the humiliations she seems to bring on herself.
Blunt’s cast mates all turned in solid supporting parts. Haley Bennett and Luke Evans both perfect as the golden couple Rachel watches from the train. Bennett as Megan, with a sleepy-eyed sexuality. Luke Evans as her husband Scott, reeking masculinity, tall, looming, muscled, slightly menacing and controlling.
Justin Theroux was the essence of the patient ex-husband Tom, conventionally attractive, understandably annoyed at Rachel’s continual intrusiveness, her neediness. Rebecca Ferguson, as the woman he left Rachel for, her patience long gone, leaving only fear of what Rachel might do along with a vague sense of dissatisfaction, leaving me wondering whether life with Tom was worth the trouble it took to get there.
Make no mistake, the book wasn’t great literature but it was a great, pulpy read. The movie isn’t Oscar material—although Emily Blunt’s acting may be—but it’s a thoroughly engrossing suspense-filled film. Moving more slowly than I expected at times, as the movie chugged along I found myself glued to the screen much as Rachel was to the window on the train—completely forgetting the book—wondering what was going to happen next.
Kudos to director Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson—I’m still mad at you for moving it to the U.S.—but as far as this reader is concerned, you brought the story home.
The Girl on the Train is playing in theaters now. Worth catching in my opinion.