IF YOU LIKE watching Emily Blunt sulk in beautiful coats, you will enjoy The Girl on the Train, the adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ much-hyped novel of the same name.
Just so we’re clear, this movie is not Gone Girl. It gets off to a deceptively boring beginning (and middle), with plenty of blue-tinted shots of a listless Blunt as Rachel, an unemployed alcoholic who fake-commutes on Metro North to New York, where she drinks vodka out of one of those water bottles with a built-in straw and sketches statues. On the way home to get blackout drunk, Rachel likes to watch a woman who lives in a house near the train and regularly hangs out on a deck wearing underwear and looking sad. That’s not really a creepy thing in and of itself, I guess—what is public transit in a big city for if not imagining the lives of other people?—but then that woman gets murdered, and Rachel becomes concerned she may have killed her in a blackout.
I didn’t really have any expectations for The Girl on the Train. Despite putting the novel on my reading list and having it recommended by many people whose opinions I respect, I’ll share that singular shame of shames: I am reviewing this movie without having read the book. Will it hold up if you already know the twist that’s coming? Maybe not! But when it finally did arrive, it reduced me to jaw-dropped fetal-position sitting for the final portion of the film and made the boring lead-up totally worth it. There are also some worthwhile performances from Blunt, Allison Janney as the bad cop version of The West Wing’s CJ Cregg, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon, and Justin Theroux, who is perfect in the role of Mildly Creepy But Maybe Just Hapless Ex-Husband.
I mean, don’t get too excited: Some parts of this movie are deeply silly. Sorry, but nobody just casually chills outside in their underwear that often. This is New England. Get a grip. And the penultimate scene veers dangerously close to straight-up camp. But that’s partly what makes The Girl on the Train so enjoyable: You think you’re being subjected to yet another cerebral drama about a deeply unhappy person, and then it turns into a compelling, blood-soaked, weirdly heartwarming revenge fantasy that leaves you rooting for morose, damaged Emily Blunt to exit her bell jar and get the fuck off that train.