Director David Fincher has a distinct style and visual flair that he brings to his work, and it has led to a number of successful films.
Fincher had nothing to do with the film adaptation of the bestselling novel The Girl on the Train, but it’s fairly clear the trailers might have wanted to make you think he did.
So, I’ll just come out and say it: this movie is a mess. The Fincher look didn’t extend much past the trailers, which is fine when you consider that director Tate Taylor’s best known movie to date was The Help. In a sense, that’s fine because Fincher’s style isn’t the only thing the movie attempts to copy since it cast Jennifer Lawrence clone Haley Bennett in the key role of the missing woman that causes all the turmoil that occurs in the course of the movie. Bennett, here blonde, looks even more like Lawrence than she did in The Magnificent Seven.
To be fair, that’s not Bennett’s fault. But so much of this film looks like the producers were trying to make something else that they might have wanted to trick people into seeing a lesser movie nonetheless. Considering author Paula Hawkins has probably had her debut novel compared to the similarly titled Gone Girl just due to the title, that makes even more sense.
But speaking as someone who’s read both books, aside from the “Girl” in the title and some unreliable narrators, there isn’t much the two works really have in common. Gone Girl‘s unreliable narrators are doing so out of a need for deception. The Girl on the Train, for much of the book and film, features a hopeless drunk as the main character, and the other two narrators mostly work out of ignorance of what’s going on. None of the Train narrators are trying to trick the audience. They are, for the most part, simply saying what little they know as the truth gradually becomes clearer. And even when one of them is lying, the audience at least can see it.
That much stays true for the film, but the film has some serious flaws. For one, many of the characters act or speak the way no real person has ever acted or spoke. Most of the performances are stilted at best. No one seems to have a real hold on his or her character, and when the actual villain is revealed, the character goes from zero to supervillain in the blink of an eye. And while the novel makes Rachel Watson’s memories of her drunken behavior seem fuzzy, the film can’t or won’t do that, and does so in ways that don’t really work.
There is one thing worth mentioning, though, and that’s actress Emily Blunt in the lead role as Rachel. Though Hawkins didn’t give much in the way of physical description for her characters, she does mention a couple times that Rachel is overweight. Clearly not in the case for Blunt, and furthermore, Blunt is the only English character in the movie as the action was transplanted from suburban London to West Chester County, New York. But that’s not to take away from Blunt at all. She gives as fantastic a performance as the script will allow. Often stumbling around disheveled, stuttering, and looking rather awful, this performance raises the movie as much as it can, but even an actor as talented as Blunt can only do so much.
As such, I’m giving it six out of ten water bottles full of vodka. Read the book instead if you really want to know what happened.