Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Girl on the Train


It was a modest start. The girl on the train even looked bored; so bored her mind picks on the houses she sees by the tracks. But from modest beginnings The Girl on the Train ended with a bang.  It has drama and mystery; everything wrapped in a theme that challenges a woman’s validation of self. An original gem giving us a brief respite in this era of superhero movies.

Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) takes the train twice every day. She’s very particular on her seat, which is whatever side of the train has the view of the two houses and the women she’s attached to in her daily commute. 

Megan (Haley Bennett), the hot looking one who often dresses provocatively on the terrace; there’s an equally hot looking husband that came with the view. The perfect loving couple. And a few houses away is Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Anna has a baby and, oh yes, she is living in Rachel’s former home.

Thing is, what Rachel has with the two is not just a diversion during commute; she sees her life in them instead of living her own. Imagine a circle; if you looked outside of it, there’s at least a sense of the whole wide world albeit with regular return trips. 

Keep your eyes in the middle, same spot, then the circle is a trap. As much of a straight line the train tracks are; back and forth, every day, with her eyes just on the same two houses; Rachel is in that trap.

She’s a drunk. If only she can have a baby – like Anna. If only she had a handsome and passionate husband – like Megan. Rachel thinks if he had those two, life would have been complete.

So when Megan had another man wrapped around her at the terrace of her home, it was bad enough prompting the girl to get off the train. To Rachel who is riding around in circles the assumed affair of a stranger is a threat to her. Megan disappears. 

Whodunit.

On the tail of the three damsels – Emily, Haley, and Rebecca – is former West Wing star Allison Janney. She plays Detective Riley and having played one of the most powerful women characters on TV in CJ Cregg, it was perfectly portrayed however brief.

If there’s any doubt of the woman theme The Girl on the Train went for then all you have to see is Detective Riley. Do a compare and contrast. 

Note that she’s not only partnered with another detective who barely got any lines, Detective Riley is also taller and by the looks of it runs the investigation. An interrogation scene even has the male detective positioning himself a little behind Riley, giving her prominence.

Remember how Rachel sees herself?  She needs a man. She needs a baby. She needs both of those packaged in a house with a picket fence.  We haven’t touched on who Megan and Anna is yet. Are they as complete as Rachel would think them to be? 

Megan who dresses provocatively ironically calls the town a baby factory. Anna who now resides at Rachel’s former home sees her baby almost the same way as Rachel does.

In terms of story structure, The Girl on the Train has a nonlinear storyline and points- of-view scenes which they used masked the villain. Keep the mystery. 

If there’s anything wrong I would say they made Megan too sensual. I am having a hard time to decide if all her scenes were necessary to her character or did the writer just use skin to cover plot holes.  Maybe those who find Haley uninteresting will notice plot holes more than I do.

As to whodunit, I wouldn’t say the reveal was earth shattering. The suspect pool has a limited number of suspects; who else can you go as the minutes pass by? The suspects are always juggling up and down the line as new information is uncovered. My admiration is more because the villain and the setup of the entire mystery are thematically consistent about women - who the three women are and who Detective Riley projects herself to be.

The story is ends with train; beautifully book-ending the film, making a metaphor for life. It’s a normal ride now: passenger comes into train, sits, and now eyes forward.