Saturday, 22 October 2016

Movie Vs. Book: The Girl on The Train

A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing person investigation that promises to send shock waves throughout her life.

The Girl on the Train is an adaptation of Paula Hawkins' prismatic 2015 bestseller and it is at heart a murder mystery, yet in many ways that is the film's most routine aspect. The story is promising and has resemblances to Alfred Hitchcock, Patrick Hamilton or also something of Agatha Christie's detective story 4:50 From Paddington. What makes a good movie adaptation of a book succeed? The quality of the source material matters, of course, but it's hardly a guarantee. A lot of great novels have curled up and died on screen and some forgettable ones have been pulled through. The practise of referring to grown women as girls continue... here is the one on the train, as opposed to the gone one or the one with the dragon tattoo. Readers of the book were treated to amusingly precise descriptions of Rachel's daily, boozy transit. The film not only ditches these good, shabby detail but shifts the whole business to upstate New-York, to give it scenic benefits to and to associate itself with the cool suburban created by David Fincher in Gone Girl

Paula Hawkins' madly popular novel has a terrific main character on the page and the fact that she's still terrific on screen is a reason alone to see it. Rachel, the main narrator, hits a new high in unreliability. For one thing, she's mostly drunk throughout most of the story, so her memories are not to be trusted - not even is she sure if what she remembers really happened; and for another, her whole life has become a lie. Emily Blunt who portrays Rachel brilliantly in the movie plays half her scenes as she's holding back tears (or screams, who knows...). She's a mesmerising actress who's been in need of a role like this one. It should, at last, elevate her star power. She manages to pull off a perilously effective performance and plays Rachel with a cold that makes it look as if her facial features are slowly coming apart. We can't help but root for her, even when she's a drunken destroyer with borderline personality disorder. At one point she stands in a bathroom, smearing the mirror with lipstick, letting out the rage she feels at her ex, and it is a cathartic moment and uncomfortable moment. 

As a novel, The Girl on the Train is told by a series of unreliable narrators and that's part of its post-Gone Girl feature. In the movie, the unreliability factor plays differently. It comes down to images shown and we, therefore, believe it, but the things we've been shown may not, in fact, have happened. Did I loose you...? Right. Though it is not all that different from what the book did, it can be unsettling at some point. Moreover, the narrative is carefully split between three women whose lives interlink tragically. Indeed, everyone in this film is connected, to the point that the movie has a turbulently incestuous small-town-soap-opera quality. It's a structural movie that carries ideology and a sense of women being forced to live divided lives. 

Nonetheless, there's a strong feminist-inflected suggestion that Rachel, Megan, and Anna are different sides of a singular shared experience, their dreams memories and voices intermingling in a patchwork of female rage, like a silent scream. Scrambling a story is easy, but it's done here to right perfection, with suspenseful effect. 

Overall, to the adventurous cinematography, to an expressive score and an oddly sympathetic script, this cinematic train is rolling.

1 comment:

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