Substance Abuse.  Throughout life, the choices or decisions we make not only affect our own state of mind, but the perceptions of those around us.  Sometimes, the results are happy or joyous.  Other times, they create stress and disdain.  When those choices lead to unhappiness, we lose control of ourselves, seeking confinement within euphoria; often booze or drugs – anything to take our minds off the unpleasantness, ultimately losing control over events and our own bodies.  This is the subject of Tate Taylor’s THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Rachel (Emily Blunt), recently divorced, rides the commuter train daily, passing by her former neighborhood and that of her next door neighbors, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett) Hipwell, whom she fantasizes over.  In her drunken stupor, she has harassed and frightened her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Thoreaux) and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).  When Megan turns up missing, it is up to Rachel to see clearly through to discovering the truth.  Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow also star.

Based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, Erin Cressida Wilson (Men, Women & Children) weaves a tail of intrigue and suspense, which ultimately answers fewer questions than it asks.  The saving grace of the movie is the casting with each, especially Blunt, providing very strong and emotionally-laden performances.  This is attributable to Taylor’s understanding of the material, but also each actor understanding their function in the story.  The challenge with the way the story is told here is that it blends all of the main characters together, belaboring the point of the movie.

Taylor supports the performers with a strong technical team.  Although certain set-ups don’t work as effectively as they should, the exterior work shot by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Far From the Madding Crowd) is exquisite.  Kevin Thompson’s production design, Deborah Jensen’s art direction, Susan Bode – Tyson’s set decoration, Michelle Matland’s costume designs and Bernadette Mazur’s and Kyra Panchenko’s make-up designs truly help to flesh out each character’s journey and their interactions with one another.

Editing is an essential part of a story like this.  Andew Buckland (Captain America:  The First Avenger, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Michael McCusker (13 Hours, The Amazing Spider-Man) worked jointly on this project.  This is Buckland’s first full editorial assignment, whereas McCusker has a good deal more experience.  Their experiences allowed them to edit each sequence tightly.  However, the entire flow of the movie is disruptive due in part to the way the story is told.  There were opportunities for the editorial team to tighten up the pacing of the movie.

Music is an integral part to a story like this.  Not only can it carry the context of the movie’s central thesis, it also conveys a characters’ emotion or a particular situation.  No one is better equipped to handle such a complex tapestry as Danny Elfman.  His long association with Tim Burton as well as his background with Oingo Boingo in the 1980’s really helped to define him and his sensibilities, which are on full display here.

Taylor’s THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is full of strong performances and solid technical achievements.  Together, they cannot surmount the flat, Lifetime-esque tale that unfolds before us.  The elements of the movie are relatable to many of us.  TRAIN is Recommended.