Location, location, location.
You’d be well-advised to stay away from Beckett Road. According to “The Girl on the Train,” it’s not only because the rear of the houses faces a railroad track upon which trains frequently pass. The houses are attractive enough with nice suburban backyards. But the inhabitants are either some of the most miserable women on the planet or some of the most precariously balanced. Or both. Peace of mind is rare.
Take Rachel (Emily Blunt), for instance. Please, as Henny Youngman might have said. She used to live at 15 Beckett Road where she and her husband tried desperately for years to have a baby. When that just wouldn’t work, she also learned that her husband (Justin Theroux) was cheating on her. So they got a divorce and Rachel turned into a drunk who calls and texts her ex constantly and shows up at her old house – where he still lives – to terrorize his new wife Anna and their baby.
The way Rachel spends her life is taking the commuter train back and forth into New York while drunk on vodka.
New wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is more or less happy as a wife and mother despite Rachel’s continuing domestic terrorism, but she used to be much happier as her husband’s “other woman.” These days he bores her.
Megan (Haley Bennett) lives at 13 Beckett Road. She seems happily married to a husband with whom she has frequent sex on porches and in rooms that are visible to passing trains. But she’s also seeing – and seducing – a shrink, whom she tells about her lifelong inclination to distribute her sexual favors freely. “It doesn’t matter who they are,” says Megan, “what matters is how they make me feel.”
Megan, for a while, worked as a nanny for her neighbor Anna to help with baby Evie. But she just got up and left one day with only a few hours notice, thereby leaving Anna high and dry.
The eponymous “Girl on the Train” is Rachel, the most miserable and screwed up of the three, the one who did her time on Beckett Road and now keeps spying on everyone from the commuter train and returning to the old neighborhood to upset people’s lives.
To be entirely fair, Blunt’s is a terrific performance – a performance so good as a stumbling, stalking, blackout drunk that the movie, quite frankly, is a bit of a tough slog to get through.
“What’s wrong with you crazy women?” asks Anna’s husband, a less-than-sensitive question that, I’m guessing, will occur to many in both genders in the audience before the film is over.
You certainly want Rachel to find peace and happiness, but to watch the movie is to spend 112 minutes knee deep in something that is indistinguishable from pathology. It occurs to you that someone ought to be paying you for your attentions.
Certainly pathology is how it looks to the local suburban cop, played by Allison Janney, obviously relishing the role of severe, tough, no-nonsense investigator.
There is a lot to impress in “The Girl on the Train” besides Blunt’s performance and Bennett’s beauty playing Megan. I like the extreme stylization of the direction of Tate Taylor, who previously gave us “The Help” and “Get On Up” with that knockout performance by Chadwick Boseman (who was just in town playing Thurgood Marshall in the biopic filmed here).
The whole film alternates eerie aerial and exterior shots and extreme close-ups where the camera always seems the exact same distance from the faces, whomever they belong to. That’s interesting, a lot more so than the film probably deserved.
So are all the performances, not just Blunt’s.
When Megan disappears and seems to be dead, you’ll have no difficulty whatsoever fingering the bad guy by the halfway mark. Just look for the actor with the longest starring pedigree who is being used minimally up to that point in the film. Something is going to have to justify the big paycheck and no doubt that will be some concluding villainy, and, as Master Thespian would say, ACTING. We’re talking about very old-fashioned thriller methodology.
I must confess I was so delighted by the pure, crowd-pleasing vengeful malice of the movie’s payoff that I laughed out loud at it. It’s shameless, utterly shameless. So I almost gave this movie three stars. But then I remembered all those times when 1-year-old Evie in the drama was gratuitously terrorized and threatened in my least favorite sleazy thriller plot device.
Readers of the best-selling novel may be satisfied. The rest of us may well find it tough work, at times, to get through it.
“The Girl on the Train”
Two and a half stars out of four
Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson, Allison Janney
Director: Tate Taylor
Running time: 112 minutes
Rating: R for violence, sex, nudity and language
The lowdown: Adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestseller about three unhappy suburban women.