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“The Girl on the Train” hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race

the girl on the train
Adaptations of pulpy novels got a dose of class a few years back when David Fincher made Gone Girl. Now, it’s sort of becoming the rage. This week, we have a film clearly indebted to that one in The Girl on the Train. It wants to go where that one couldn’t, namely the Oscar race in multiple categories. Well, I’m here to tell you that I think that’s highly unlikely. This could be a big financial success and make Emily Blunt into an even bigger star, but that’s about it. Comparing this one to Gone Girl is an insult to Fincher’s work.

The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins. It centers around Rachel (Blunt), an alcoholic who likes to watch the lives of others as she rides a commuter train. She can see her ex husband Tom (Justin Theroux) in their old home with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), as well as a young couple down the road. She’s fascinated by the young wife Megan (Haley Bennett), perhaps to the point of danger. When she goes missing, Rachel finds herself a suspect. I won’t say more, but you can kind of guess what happens. Tate Taylor directs a script from Erin Cressida Wilson, who adapted Hawkins’ book. The supporting cast includes Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon, Edgar Ramírez, and more. Danny Elfman contributes the score, while cinematography is by Charlotte Bruus Christensen.

Frankly, outside of Blunt’s lead performance and Elfman’s score, I kind of hated this movie. It’s dumb, what too proud of twists you can see coming, and wastes its cast. Bennett and Ferguson are solid too, but underserved. Blunt gets a juicy starring role and commits to it, but Taylor and company just don’t make the final product worthwhile. Perhaps something was lost in the transition by Wilson from book to screen? There’s also the possibility that the source material just wasn’t inherently fit for a movie adaptation. For whatever reason, this just doesn’t work one bit. Considering some of the talent on hand, it’s nothing short of a major disappointment.

If somehow this one catches on with voters in addition to audience members, I suppose a targeted awards campaign could be launched. Best Picture, Best Director (for Taylor), Best Supporting Actor (for Evans and/or Theroux), Best Supporting Actress (for Bennett and/or Ferguson), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Wilson), and Best Original Score seem like pipe dreams, so it’s Best Actress (for Blunt) or bust. I suppose there’s a shot for Blunt in Actress if she’s cited by the Golden Globes and the flick is a major smash, but it’s not a strong one. I’d bet heavily against this one going anywhere of note during the season.

Quickly, here’s what I consider to be Blunt’s ten best performances so far:

1. Edge of Tomorrow
2. Your Sister’s Sister
3. Sicario
4. The Five Year Engagement
5. The Adjustment Bureau
6. The Devil Wears Prada
7. Looper
8. The Young Victoria
9. The Girl on the Train
10. Sunshine Cleaning

Overall, The Girl on the Train is trash, plain and simple. Come tomorrow/Friday, that may sound like a nice bit of counter programming for you all, but it won’t have my recommendation. I found it to be terribly lacking, but your mileage may vary. Far be it from me to dissuade you if you’re a fan of the book, but heed my warnings about its quality. Blunt fans might enjoy her getting a showcase part like this, but they’ll almost certainly be left wanting more. Make up your own mind about this one, ladies and gents. You know where I stand though…

Be sure to check out The Girl on the Train if you’re interested, in theaters everywhere this weekend.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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