Dear Hollywood, when adapting novels into films, please refrain from being seduced by money or laziness and actually use some creativity and initiative for once – if I wanted to experience the exact same story again and again, I would have picked up the original book and reread it. If there was a shooting star in the sky right now, do you know what I would wish for (obviously besides Bella Hadid’s hand in marriage)? I would wish that just once, ONCE, adaptations would take a risk and surprise audiences with something spectacular, something that wasn’t already written on the page. May it be reinventing characters, taking the plot in excitingly different directions or better yet, giving us shocking final twists not seen before in the book, either way give us something NEW! In my opinion film is all about creating new worlds and taking storytelling to summits unseen before. Yet, director Tate Taylor ignores the magical promise of cinema and opts to literally transcribe Paula Hawkins’s source book in its entirety, adds some pretty little pictures to it and then expect us to fall head-over-heels in love with the film as we did so overwhelmingly with the book – Taylor should have known we aren’t that easily wooed.
With a dizzying swirl of inebriation constantly in her system, Rachel (Emily Blunt) remains forever in a limbo of consciousness and unconsciousness. In between sips of alcohol, Rachel’s life remains suspended in a saddening cycle of empty bottles and pointless journeys leading to nowhere. Rachel’s only escape from her pathetic existence is living vicariously through the snapshotted lives of a young gorgeous couple she always sees from a distance on her train rides. Without ever meeting them, Rachel spends her time projecting onto them the perfect life she always wanted, the life she should’ve been living with her ex-husband Tom, who still lives in their old house a mere two doors away from the couple, with his new wife and child. The story then fragments into three different perspectives; Rachel’s, Tom’s new wife Anna’s and Megan’s, the wife in that young gorgeous couple. Even in white picket fenced suburbia, tragedy is no stranger and the small world of Beckett Road is soon shocked to its very core when Megan goes missing, leaving someone with the unsettling truth behind her disappearance and whether she is still alive or dead.
As you can guess, Girl on the Train follows on the coattails of the explosion of reinterest in female driven crime thrillers detonated by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and David Fincher’s equally brilliant adaptation of the best seller. However, whilst Gone Girl in book and film constructed a layered and enticing female lead in Amy Dunne, who drove both mediums with her intelligence, deviance and haunting evil; Girl on the Train’s Rachel on the other hand, remains passive, forgettable and eventually lucky to stumble her way towards the films eventual revelation – It would have made for a more rewarding watch and better served the narrative if Rachel had a little more grit and purpose about her.
“I read once that when a train hits, it can rip the clothes right off of you.” – Megan Hipwell.
Just like in the book, Tate Taylor missed a treat by not focusing on the character of Megan enough, who by far represented the most compelling character and backstory in the entire book. Conveniently, the portrayal of Megan herself by Haley Bennett was also unparalleled by anyone else – at the start of the film Bennett imbues her portrayal with a sultry assuredness, giving us the impression that Megan is a woman whose attractiveness can drive men crazy and then beyond crazy… Subsequently, as the story progresses, like Megan’s silk underwear to her secret lover’s floor, Bennet also allows her character’s emotional layers to fall, revealing a girl naked and vulnerable – desiring not sex, but love.
The only meaningful change between book and film was in Location, from London to upstate New York, which frustrated me initially, but when you think about it – what would you rather see outside of your train window; high-rise flats and the back of a Tesco or empty fields coated in golden Autumn leaves, leading to beautiful suburbia? Girl on the Train is long and dull, but at least the view is nice.