If this film can somehow elevate itself above the rote characterization of melodramatic, sex-crazed, over-weight women that author Paula Hawkins subscribed to in the original book, well, hey, this could be a movie.
I sat through most of The Girl On The Train thinking to myself, “something is glaringly sexist about this film.” And sure, Taylor Tate’s adaptation of the wildly-successful, book-club schlock The Girl On The Train purports to be about a wounded, abused woman finding agency in her own fucked-up life, but something about it feels voyeuristic, or creepy. The film – split into three separate, time-spanning storylines – follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), a divorced woman still smarting from her, uh, divorce; Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the prim wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and Megan (Haley Bennett), the promiscuous nanny who ends up dead in a tunnel. At its heart, well, it’s a murder mystery, dragged through a puddle of martinis and placed on the able shoulders of Blunt’s Rachel, who must put aside her demons and resurrect her memories so she can figure out who offed the nanny. It’s a melodramatic potboiler, stepped up a notch because of the production value (high at most times, bordering on Lifetime Original at others) and again, the acting. These are big, meaty (if not stereotypical) roles for women, and each of the assorted trio bites off as much as they’re given and goes to town. Blunt is especially fantastic as a woman so far down on her life that she drinks vodka out of a sippy-cup-style water bottle and temporarily steals babies. She’s able to dredge the emotions this women is so adamantly trying to drown in alcohol. So yeah, it’s a filmic equivalent of a grocery store Tony Hellerman book, and it would’ve been a perfectly okay Tuesday night tipple, if not for that lingering feeling – was this movie sexist? Was it hiding a layer of unintentional misogyny under its ladies-getting-stronger surface? Yes, undoubtedly. Sure, this film is about the trappings of modern society – weddings, babies, social pressures – that unintentionally (we hope) crush women down into props for their husbands/lovers/whatever. But it’s also a gross acceptance of what we deem as normal in American society. Rachel wouldn’t be so down if she could just have a baby. And Anna, well, Anna is happily involved in a relationship, but someone keeps trying to mess with her baby! And Megan, oh Megan, she’s the whore-turned-madonna, a destitute girl who has, sigh, lost a child, and can now only feel the world through the intimate touch of a man. Megan’s storyline is the worst, as Tate crams it with sex scenes that at first show Megan’s reliance on sexual relationships, but eventually only serve to show that Hayley Bennett looks good in a shower. I like a melodramatic potboiler as much as the next person, but I’ll have mine without the side of sexist drivel.
One Last Thought:
Hayley Bennett could be a genetically modified clone of Jennifer Lawrence.