It’s a shame that one must be so disappointed by one of your most anticipated films of the year. 2016 has been filled with countless let-downs and “The Girl on the Train” is no different. With a star-studded cast of some of the world’s best actors, the director of “The Help,” “Get on Up” and a New York Times best-selling novel as its point of reference. “The Girl on the Train” was was filled with potential, but ultimately failed with terribly soap-operatic dialogue, a lackluster middle, and exaggerated acting that’s how.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a depressive alcoholic who has recently divorced from her husband (Justin Theroux). Her downward spiral has left her unemployed and riding the train every single day. She takes the route that passes by her old house and she has recently began fantasizing about a couple who she imagines as the perfect love story, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans). When Megan goes missing, Rachel tries to help the police find her and the more she digs the more she realizes that the Hipwell’s are anything but a perfect couple.
The acting in the film is consistently melodramatic. While the actresses do a solid job at capturing the essence of these characters the men are often all over the place. Justin Theroux does a solid job for most of the movie but he has hardly screen time to make his arc to feel believable. Luke Evans employs his usual performance of steely glances and gravelly voice, once again pairing this with little emotion or nuance; thank goodness he’s barely in the film as well. The same criticism goes for Edgar Ramirez, who almost feels inappropriately cast considering that his character is supposed to be of Arabian descent but Ramirez is Venezuelan.
The women, unlike their male counterparts, are very strong. Blunt is captivating as Rachel and is perfectly cast. Blunt once again proves that she is capable of tackling any role that you put her in. Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna Watson has a miniscule role, but she still gives a great performance. Allison Janney’s police detective is intimidating and serious, though her moments are few she is the most interesting focus of them beyond any doubt. Haley Bennett initially seems to be the weak link but immediately pivots her average unhappy, promiscuous house wife into a tortured and nuanced young woman. The strength and talent portrayed by the actresses of the film are one of the only positive parts of the film.
The movies relies so deeply on the talent of its actors that it forgot to write acceptable dialogue. Not only is it distastefully melodramatic, it is also painfully stupid on occasion. Thankfully it isn’t consistently dumb that the film is completely unwatchable. This is to be expected from the screenwriter, Erin Cressida Wilson, hasn’t written a good screenplay since she started in 2002. Her inability to produce good material might also explain the relative dull movement in the middle section of the story. The film’s bookends are some of the best thriller material you can find, and its twist is phenomenal. Sadly, the middle doesn’t hold up as well and is often so slow and uninteresting that your eyelids will feel heavy.
“The Girl on the Train” was one of the most anticipated movies of the fall, and it was a let down. I feel disappointed. Its acting is lackluster at best, and its writing is dull at its lowest, and only passable at its best.