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Friday, November 25, 2016

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train (2016), Gone Girl, and The Unreliable Narrator Twist

 Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Written By: Erin Cressida Wilson
Release Date: October 7, 2016
Rating: C-

My Thoughts:
In 2014, we were dumbfounded during Gone Girl when it was revealed 
that sweet Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) had faked her own death and was
 setting her husband up for murder. However, that shock didn’t come from 
the twist itself. It came from fact that everything we’d learned up to that 
point in the film was wrong and the person who lead us astray was none
 other than our narrator, the one person we'd automatically assume we can 
trust. In Gone Girl and many other great thrillers, the unreliable narrator is
 a trope that helps these movies come full circle. But is the biggest strength
 of all these other films also The Girl on the Train’s greatest weakness?

In The Girl on the Train, we meet Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), an 
alcoholic divorcee still obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) 
and his new family. Rachel attributes the end of her marriage to her 
excessive drinking and the violent behaviors and blackouts that would occur
 because of it. We slowly find out Rachel is also quite obsessed with Tom’s 
neighbors, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) and their seemingly 
perfect marriage. After catching Megan cheating on her husband, a drunken, 
angry Rachel goes to confront her only to wake up covered in blood with
 Megan gone missing. 

In Gone Girl, we care about Amy before we even meet her. From her
 narration of the story, we find out that, like Rachel, she doesn’t have the
 best marriage. However, she and her husband are still trying to make it work.
 Until Amy goes missing, that is. While a majority of the mystery lies with 
Amy’s husband, Nick, (Ben Affleck) and his mission to find her, another one
 is playing out as Amy spells out their past. Who are these people? What have 
they done to each other? And more importantly, what are they capable of? 
Though Amy is explaining to us what happened, we do still have out questions, 
especially towards the end the of the film when it turns out that Amy was liar 
and she's set her husband up for her supposed murder. It's because of that twist
 that we immediately believe everything Amy has told us is false, but there's still
 a bit of truth to every lie. Amy explains that Nick abused her and it's even more compelling when we see it reenacted on the screen, but after the twist is
revealed and Amy returns after being "kidnapped" by a crazy ex-boyfriend, 
Nick angrily throws her against the wall. This partially backs up Amy's accusation 
of Nick having a violent temper. When Amy explains why she and Nick's marriage 
began to falter, she later on tells us that those reasons are why she planned to get revenge on Nick in the first place. He stole her money and used it frivolously when
 he had no job of his own, he became cold and distant towards her and most
 importantly, he cheated on her. While Amy is our unreliable narrator 
because she falsified a lot of information to get Nick indicted for her murder 
and her words aren't to be taken at face value because of that, as I stated,
 there's still some truth to every lie. If these weren't the reasons for Amy
 to seek vengeance on Nick, then what were they? However, no one else is 
there to confirm or deny Amy's recollection of the past besides anything 
involving her "murder and kidnapping, so her side of the story is the only one 
we can believe, even after the twist. And even with through all her manipulation 
and plotting, we still feel something for her and we're still investing in her story 
even after we find out a majority of what happened is a lie and that's why the 
twist works to well. However, in The Girl on the Train, there’s not enough 
there to allow us feel anything for our main character, Rachel (Emily Blunt).

The plot and star-powered cast alone are enough to get people in theaters 
to see The Girl on the Train. However, these things are not enough to make
 you feel satisfied after you’ve walked out of the theater. We follow Rachel
 around as she tries to piece together who Megan really was and what happened 
the night of her murder, but the more and more she becomes involved with the investigation, we lose sight of who Rachel is as a character. Rachel's backstory is explained, but she's not the one to tell us about herself. It's because we're simply
 shown what's happened and not given any other context or explanation, 
the depth needed to connect us to Rachel is gone. We either like her for who
 she is now, or not at all, but she gives us no reason to like her. While we feel 
sorry for her because she’s unemployed and sleeping on a friend’s couch, she 
doesn’t really seem to care about any of these things herself. She rides the 
train to no place in particular every morning even though she has little to no 
income, she still drinks heavily even though she knows it's the reason for her
 marriage ending and she continuously stalks Tom and his new wife. As she 
becomes more and more focused on finding out who Megan was, she really begins
 forgets who she is and so do we. The whole focus of the film begins to shift to
 Megan's story and the more we begin to understand who Megan was and what 
happened, the more Rachel falls to the back-burner, even though she's the one
 trying to figure out what happened. This becomes even more evident when 
the twist occurs and we find out that everything we know about Rachel is a 
lie, but because we never really cared about Rachael from the beginning, the
 twist pretty much loses its power. 

 Rachel moves on with her life pretty much unphased by her troubled past as
 she’s telling us what happening in the present.This is happening simultaneously 
as clues to the mystery seem to Rachel’s hands whenever it’s convenient for 
the plot. Amy Dunne places us directly in her picture perfect life and we move
 through her life as she does. We get a sense of not only what's going on,
 but how she feels as well. We don't get this with Rachel. The power of that
 twist remains strong strictly because not only of Amy’s manipulation, but
 because of the connection between us and the person we thought she was as 
well. While both narrators flipped the script on what we knew to be true in 
their tales, they did so for very different reasons. Amy was manipulative 
by choice. Rachel, on the other hand, was not. Her alcoholism along 
with her manipulative ex-husband were what skewed her vision of the past, 
so she didn't  know that what she was telling us was a complete lie. 
Typically, the unreliable narrator is a trope that works well because of 
our intrigue with getting manipulated by someone we thought we could 
trust. Amy leads us astray with a wide, calculated smile and we're
 mesmerized because of it. Rachel's unreliability lies comes about by 
everyone else except herself and because of that we don’t even care
 whether or not we’re getting played at all.

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