Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2016. Amblin Partners, DreamWorks, Marc Platt Productions, Reliance Entertainment. Screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins. Cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. Produced by Jared LeBoff, Marc Platt. Music by Danny Elfman. Production Design by Kevin Thompson. Costume Design by Michelle Matland, Ann Roth. Film Editing by Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker.
After her alcoholism destroys her marriage, Emily Blunt continues her downward spiral while on her daily commute, staring out the window of her train and into the home of a seemingly perfect couple (Luke Evans, Haley Bennett) who live two doors down from her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) and his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson). Blunt sips on vodka disguised in a water bottle and narrates her woes to the audience, always a perpetual mess who spends too much time in bars, which means that police detective Allison Janney isn’t going to provide much sympathy when Bennett goes missing and Blunt reports having seen her kissing another man on her balcony. Our anti-heroine befriends Evans in an effort to get involved in the case, hoping no one finds out that she herself could be involved in the case because she blacked out in the area where the girl was last seen but can’t remember a thing. What should be a fun mystery is hindered by a script that is mostly excuses to keep busy than an intelligent spiderweb of possibilities, then made worse by inept direction by Tate Taylor, who only sporadically finds the interest in the many strands of the dull plot but does not get any intense charge out of the parts meant to be frightening or tense. Blunt, usually a superb actress, is directed to play drunk with a kind of mannered mawkishness that Bette Davis would have had no time for, while the always brilliant Janney’s “Lady Cop” routine is just one of the cardboard types surrounding the lead character. It sets itself up as the story of three women but mostly ignores the perspective of two of them, then boils down to a dissatisfying climax after halfhearted red herrings and a culprit who is given no detail other than his bad behaviour; the story’s entire purpose seems to be to tell upper-middle-class women that nothing is their fault even when they make self-destructive choices, the sense of sisterhood in the conclusion feeling more like simplistic pandering than any kind of empowerment. With its glamorous photography and an appealing cast plus a good setup, however, don’t be surprised if you find yourself intrigued before getting to the part that makes you regret you bothered. Lisa Kudrow makes a warm but inexplicable cameo.