The Girl on the Train

October 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett
Directed by: Tate Taylor (“The Help,” “Get on Up”)
Written by: Erin Cressida Wilson (“Men, Women & Children”)

High-class trashiness in entertainment is underrated. Who doesn’t enjoy some preposterous airplane novel about a conspiracy to quash knowledge of Jesus’ wife and children? Or a well-made TV show about the O.J. Simpson trial featuring respected actors dolled up in ‘90s Court TV cosplay?

Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins you saw everyone at Starbucks reading, the film version of “The Girl on the Train” follows closely in the footsteps of that other twisty-turny-trashy novel-turned-movie “Gone Girl,” piling on the double crosses and diversions, only without ever elevating the trashiness to an enjoyable level or executing a satisfying twist.

Boozy, bedraggled Rachel (Emily Blunt) goes about her life in an alcoholic haze, riding the train into Manhattan every day. She fixates on the people who live (pretty unfortunately) near the track, namely a young blonde woman named Megan (Haley Bennett) upon whom Rachel projects her dream of a perfect life. She has a sexy husband (Luke Evans) and a beautiful home (if you don’t factor in the proximity to a commuter rail line). But, as we learn through shifts in storytellers, she is hardly happy. Megan is enamored with her therapist (Edgar Ramirez) and hates children and her job as a nanny working for Anna (Rebecca Ferguson)—who lives two doors down from Megan, is married to Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and is fed up with Rachel’s stalker-like behavior. When Rachel spies Megan canoodling with another man on the balcony as the train passes by, she makes a booze-fueled fateful decision to get off the train and confront Megan for ruining her own life, only to wake up hours later to find she’s a suspect in Megan’s disappearance.

Where “The Girl on the Train” falters in comparison to something like David Fincher’s spiritually-similar “Gone Girl” is the absence of an appealing character when all of the dust settles. Bennett’s Megan is a petulant, dissatisfied adulterer. Ferguson’s Anna is a cold, shrill yuppie wife. And Rachel is a raging, destructive alcoholic—unless she wasn’t always, as the script weakly and ineffectively bails her out in the third act. The twist ending, if you can call it that, is easy to spot from a mile away and isn’t scandalous enough or, frankly, outrageously batshit crazy enough to elevate the material to the sublime nastiness a film like this demands.

Stoker

March 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy”)
Written by: Wentworth Miller (debut) and Erin Cressida Wilson (“Chloe”)

Whether you can handle the bloodletting of filmmaker Chan-wook Park’s past work like “Thirst,” “Oldboy,” and “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” one thing is undeniable certain after seeing the South Korean director’s first American-made film “Stoker”: the man can sure set a chilling scene even better than most who consider the horror genre their forte.

Before we confuse viewers out there, “Stoker” is not a horror film. Despite Park’s last project centering on a vampire priest and the fact that Stoker is the surname of the novelist who wrote “Dracula,” the film “Stoker” has not one mythological fang working in its favor. That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t have a piercing bite. With Park at the helm, “Stoker,” despite its narrative drawbacks in the first half, is a master class in tone, setting, and overall ambiance that everyone should experience with the lights off.

After the mysterious death of her husband Richard (Dermot Mulroney), Evelyn Stoker (Nicole Kidman) opens her home to her estranged brother-in-law Charles (Matthew Goode), a handsome and creepily charming man who is easy to recognize in the cinematic world as someone with skeletons in his closet. While the unstable Evelyn is more than receptive to Charles moving into her home, her introverted teenage daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) is none too happy that no one ever told her she had an uncle.

The family secret might’ve been for her own good as we watch Charles snake around the property making everyone he comes into contact with uncomfortable. The sexual tension between he and both Evelyn and India is extremely palpable with each glint in his eye and perfect smile. In one scene, Charles sits down at a piano to play a duet with India, who almost practically orgasms as her uncle moves his arms around her back to hit the higher register on the keys. It’s not so much the idea Charles desires both women that is unnerving. It’s the vagueness of Charles’ backstory that will keep you wondering which way he will slither.

With the exception of the 2009 drama “A Single Man,” Goode has never been better. His subtle handling of his character feels genuine and never exaggerated. Both Wasikowska and Kidman’s performances are anchored by the self-confidence he brings to his own role.

Still, it is Park’s attention to detail that keeps “Stoker” truly fascinating. His use of light and sound, which are creatively edited into scenes throughout the film, are only some of the small gems that will stand out to those who notice finer points in the filmmaking process. It may be his first foray into the American film industry, but with “Stoker” he’s made an impression.