movie: The Girl on the Train (2016)

The Girl on the Train is based on the novel of the same title by Paula Hawkins. I have not read the book, and knew nothing of it when I was invited with a group of friends to go see it in the theatre. For a total unknown like that, I found it quite enjoyable. One of my dates who had read the book reported some changes in adaptation, and it sounds like the book was better; but what else is knew. I think the real issue is that books don’t become movies and still resemble their book-selves. This is natural. Perhaps we should stop expecting bookishness from film.

girl-on-the-trainRachel is divorced, and having some trouble moving on. She takes the train to work everyday past her former home, where her ex-husband lives with new wife and baby. She obsesses. Then she shifts her obsession, just slightly, to the couple who live a few doors down from her ex. She watches them; she imagines them the perfect couple. She sees something; and things spin out of control.

Suspense and surprise are a big part of this movie’s thrill, so I’ll leave it at that. There is a major plot turn I’m afraid to even hint at, but it’s a good one. Another big part of this movie’s thrill are blood and violence: not a great quantity of it, but what there is is fairly graphic, so be warned (or teased). As some critics have noted, there is not enormous character development (this was the main departure from the book, according to my memory of my movie date’s report). But the acting is more than fair, in my opinion, and I would call this story – at least the movie version of it – plot-driven rather than character-driven, so it still worked out okay for me. I enjoyed the mystery, the twists and surprises, and the bloody denouement. This was an entertaining thriller. Not mind-blowing, but worth the price of entry. I’m even interested in the book now – even though I know its secrets – and that may be the nicest part of all.

Rating: 7 wine bottles opened.

8 Responses

  1. My book club read this book last month and we are all very put out by the fact that she drinks vodka in a water bottle in the movie. This, we decided, is a significant change from the book that completely changes who Rachel is. But your assessment that the movie is plot driven as opposed to character driven makes that change a little more palatable. TBF: I thought the book was overrated, but with all that hype, how could it not be?

    • Okay, so now I’m super curious – what in the book corresponds with the vodka in the water bottle?? What detail did that replace, or – can you tell me more about this major change without giving it all away? I’m fascinated.

      I hear you about hype. It’s not generally all that good for a book/movie in the end, is it.

      • In the book, she drinks “gin in a tin” which is apparently a British thing. It can be bought at the corner store and openly consumed on the train. That’s how she gets it, and there are lots of moments when she isn’t going to drink … but then she hops in the store and buys 1 or 2 or 3 of them.

        In our discussion we thought this was a significant aspect of her mental state and alcoholism — the difference between hopping in the store for a gin in a tin and popping it open on the train vs. intentionally preparing a drink at home that is hidden in a water bottle.

        Obviously, moving the movie to the states made gin in a tin not really possible, but it seems like a 40 in a paper bag would have been more similar, except for the beer vs. liquor and potential socioeconomic class associations.

        • I should add that one member of our book club saw the movie before we met, and she wasn’t too terribly bothered by the change as she watched the movie.

        • I am crazy about you all for having such a discussion of the nuances of alcohol consumption like this. Thoroughly agree that a 40 in a paper bag calls up a different stereotype than this woman fits. Hmm. This makes for an interesting commentary about the differences between GB and the US, too. Gin in a tin. I’d never heard of it.

          My movie date who’d read the book seemed to feel the book was more character-driven than the movie – not that we talked in those terms, but she felt a lot more energy was invested in getting to know the characters, which made the big surprise more surprising. Would you agree? I do think it’s standard for movies to invest less in characterization generally – the format just doesn’t lend itself to as much interiority, or provide the time. I love your attention to the detail of the booze, and I think you’re right, there’s a lot of psychological character added there.

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