I probably should’ve written this right when the movie came out so that you’d have time to go see it after reading this review, but I didn’t get a chance to go to the theatre until a few days ago. You’ll just have to head straight to your closest AMC– preferably one of those ones with reclining chairs– as soon as your eyes hit the last word in the last paragraph, otherwise it’ll be out of theaters before you get there.
I read the book first, obviously. I can’t even imagine reading a book after seeing the movie. People who do that have serious issues. The one exception when it’s necessary to go back and read the books is Harry Potter…mostly because there really is no excuse for being a literate human being who has not read Harry Potter. You have one chance to live. Do it right.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is quite the gripping thriller novel, which explains why it was given its own movie. Unless you’re Nicolas Sparks, getting a movie deal from a book is a huge accomplishment. For Nicolas Sparks, it’s just another Tuesday.
Here’s the gist of the plot: A woman named Megan disappears one night, and we need to find out what happened to her. An alcoholic named Rachel used to watch Megan and her husband in their backyard as she rode the train past their house each day, but they never met. Rachel also used to live two doors down from Megan years before seeing her from the train, back when she was married to her ex-husband, Tom. Tom still lives in the house neighboring Megan’s house, which Rachel sees every day through the train window, as well. This sends her into fits of drinking because his new wife, Anna– who he cheated with on Rachel– now lives there with him.
Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of either Rachel, Megan, or Anna. Through each of their perspectives in the time leading up to Megan’s disappearance, and the time after, you try to piece together who was behind it. Was it her hot therapist? Was it Rachel, who does crazy things when she gets blackout drunk? Was it Anna, who seems a bit off? Was it Megan’s ex-boyfriend who deserted her ten years ago? Or did Megan simply run away on her own?
As with any book, you have to read the first 50-100 pages to really get invested, but from there, the pages practically flip themselves.
Each woman’s chapters are extremely internal, working through the intricacies of how each of their pasts shape the way they see the world. There’s so much wondering, pondering, and private wishing that I didn’t know how it would translate to a movie screen, when the majority of the storyline must be done with dialogue and action. Unfortunately, my concerns were validated. The movie was decent, but not nearly as intriguing as the book since you didn’t experience the complexities going on in the mental and emotional worlds of each narrator.
On top of the internal vs. external issue, jumping back and forth from the viewpoints of different characters is a challenging task for film. The book simply labeled each chapter with the narrator’s name and date stamp, but even then I had to flip back and forth a few times to make sure I was following correctly. The movie flashes a woman’s name on the screen each time it shifts to her perspective, but I found it to make the whole story a bit disjointed.
In condensing the 400 pages into a 2 hour film, directors had to leave out a few key scenes, as is the case with every book to movie adaptation. I was confused as to why they left out a few key happenings that would’ve fit squarely into scenes they already included in the movie, but perhaps they would’ve come across wrong without all the psychology and complex internal dialogue that the book provided. That would make sense for all the movie changes except for the fact that they changed the location from the suburbs of London to the suburbs of New York City. Why?? Whatever, I can’t get upset, because any movie omission or change is trivial compared to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire failing to include Rita Skeeter’s beetle Animagus. If I had to deal with that, I can deal with anything.
Despite enjoying the book significantly more than the movie, I still recommend checking out the film. Perhaps it’s one you may just want to rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime when it’s released instead of spending $14.00 at a theatre, but either way, you’ll want to see it once you’ve read the book. If I have to choose one for you to experience, though, the book is the runaway winner.