The Girl on the Train

Movie versions of best-selling books often suffer in comparison with the written version, especially at the hands of avid readers, who can tend to be a bit sniffy about movies.

I like to keep an open mind. I’ve read Anna Karenina twice, and seen every screen version that’s been made, so I feel qualified to say that none of the cinematic versions has suffered from having Tolstoy’s lengthy theorizing about agricultural reform cut out. In short, the text version isn’t always the best.

I haven’t read The Girl on the Train, so I can’t say whether this movie version is better. The prevailing buzz seems to be leaning towards maintaining the superiority of the book, but at least one friend of mine who HAS read the book says she thought the movie was better, so there you go.

Some critics don’t like that the story has been moved from England to America, but I don’t see this as too much of a problem. Some, like David Stratton, think it has suffered from the upgrading of everyone’s social status from grunge to middle class affluence, but then the story is more about personal psychopathology than class and status. Others have said that Emily Blunt is too attractive and charismatic to convince as the vulnerable, messed-up alcoholic Rachel, but Louise (my friend who’s done both book and movie) says nope, she’s fine.

Stratton makes the point that in the book the story is told from several different viewpoints, and he thinks this has translated to film a bit awkwardly, so that there’s a bit too much resort to on-screen plot signposting of the ‘six months ago’ and ‘two weeks ago’ kind. Yes, there is a lot of that, and you do have to concentrate a bit to follow the convoluted plot, but with this kind of thing, a nicely convoluted plot is what we’re paying for.

This kind of thing, incidentally, is a booming genre. More than one person has noted its similarity to that other recent bestselling book-turned-movie, Gone Girl, wherein the central character is a troubled femme, but just how fatale is she? This is the mystery that draws us in and keeps the proceedings interesting.

This review was first published on Facebook in October 2016