I did not think "Gone Girl" was a very good movie. That’s not to say I saw the twists coming from miles away. I just didn’t like it. I thought the story was dumb.
I didn’t really get invested in any of the characters, thus I didn’t care about what happened to them or why.
So you can pretty much guess how I feel about "The Girl on the Train," which hits theaters this weekend. Some critics have hailed it as the “return of the Hitchcockian thriller.” While I appreciate those critics’ desires to have their quote appear on movie posters and in television commercials, the truth is "Girl on the Train" is "Gone Girl" if "Gone Girl" were a Lifetime original movie.
Nay, that is unfair to Lifetime original movies. At least some of them are entertaining if not actually good. I’m of course talking about the 1996 drama "A Friend’s Betrayal" starring the incomparable Mrs. Sharon Lawrence as a woman who falls in love and begins shacking up with her best friend’s teenage son, played brilliantly by master thespian Brian Austin Green.
That movie - pardon me - that film stirred feelings in me that few others have since. To say, for even a second, that "Girl on a Train" is on par with that masterpiece of filmmaking is blasphemy!
Quick admission here. I am not sure if the title of the movie is "Girl on the Train" or "Girl on a Train." Hell, it could be "The Girl on the Train." You have Google. You look it up!
Anyway, the movie is about a woman named Rachel (Sicario’s Emily Blunt). She is a drink-to-blackout alcoholic. It’s what led to her divorce from Tom (Mr. Jennifer Anniston, Justin Theroux). Now, she rides the train into Manhattan everyday and has to go right past her old neighborhood where Tom lives with his new wife Anna (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’s Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby daughter.
On these train rides, Rachel becomes obsessed with a woman she sees through the window everyday. She doesn’t know anything about the woman other than for some reason she likes to stand on her balcony in her underwear a lot.
The woman’s name is Megan (The Magnificent Seven’s Haley Bennet, who, by the way, is a dead ringer for Jennifer Lawrence), and good lord is she a piece of work!
As the movie follows each of these three women, we learn that Tom and Anna got together when Tom was cheating on Rachel with Anna. Meagan is Tom and Anna’s nanny, but she hates their kid. Meagan is married to Scott, who is played by Luke Evans, the star of "Bonobos: Back to the Wild." I mean, Luke Evans has been in other, better known stuff, but come on! Monkeys!
Scott mainly exists to drink, brood and be cheated on. See, Meagan is having an affair with her therapist played by Joy’s Edgar Ramirez. More on this relationship in a minute, because it really sucked me out of the movie.
Anyway, one day on the train, Rachel looks out the window to see Meagan on her balcony, again mostly unclothed, kissing a man who isn’t her therapist, but is instead Dr. Therapist! The next day we find out that Meagan has gone missing.
Rachel had blacked out the night before, so she doesn’t know for sure, but she feels like she knows something about what happened. We see through flashbacks and drunken cell phone videos that Rachel shouted at a number of strangers at the bar that she hated this stranger for cheating on her husband, because it made her realize how mad she still was at Tom for cheating on her. Rachel even says she wishes she could meet Meagan face-to-face and smash her head on the kitchen floor.
Odd place to plan a murder, but okay. I guess with enough bleach you could clean the crime scene.
So Rachel sets off to see if she can help solve the case. She becomes entangled with her ex, Scott, and a cop played so lazily by the usually wonderful Alison Janney that I am going to assume the problem was the writing.
Alright, enough recap. Let’s dive into this overcooked garbage casserole.
For all I know, Emily Blunt could have done a lot of research into what it means to be an alcoholic. She could have met with people in recovery. She could have watched people struggling. I don’t think it translated to what is on screen in (The?) Girl on a/the Train. What we get is the adult version of a high school party girl: a character so annoying that I don’t care if she is innocent and still sentenced to a life of hard labor on a frozen tundra.
There is also a scene in which Rachel reveals to Scott that she saw Meagan kissing another man from the train window. After police arrest Dr. Therapist and rule him out as a suspect, he is released and allowed to resume practicing, so, naturally, Rachel books an appointment with him.
I got so hung up on this plot point in my head that I may have missed a truly excellent movie and don’t realize it because I was busy being mad about the lack of attention to a really simple detail.
If a therapist is questioned by police in the death of one of his patients because the therapist and that patient were sleeping together, wouldn’t the therapist not be allowed to take on new patients for a while? Wouldn't he either immediately be disbarred (is that what it is for doctors?) or, at the very least, have to have a chaperone in the room when he sees his current patients?
Forget the sex with a patient for a second. Is there no probational period for a therapist after he’s been questioned for murder? Shouldn’t whatever state board governs his practice want to make sure the therapist is mentally stable enough to help the mentally unstable?
Last but not least, I need to address the amount of sex and nudity in this movie. Look, I am no prude. See my feelings on "A Friend’s Betrayal" above. But the number of sex scenes and shots of Meagan’s strategically covered naked body wreaks of desperation. It’s like the director or studio execs know they have a terrible movie, but one of the stars is more attractive than the average gal, so they’re gonna make the most of it.
Don’t go see (The?) Girl on a/the Train. It sucks.
This is what Dateline and 48 Hours and Investigation Discovery have done to pop culture. Is the story interesting? No. Do the characters elicit strong emotions from you? No. Is there a murder? Yes. Well, hell, here’s $100 million! Let’s go make a movie!
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.