As the director of The Help, Tate Taylor may seem like an odd choice to make a movie based on Paula Hawkins' sexy mystery thriller bestseller. While the film features three central female characters, it also has a dark and twisty plot. Taylor manages to bring out plenty of insinuating textures in the characters to keep the audience intrigued, but he never quite gets a grip on the Hitchcockian elements of this story about identity and life expectations.
The title character is Rachel (Emily Blunt), who commutes into Manhattan every day, observing life in the suburban homes along the train line. She's particularly fascinated by one house and the blonde woman (Haley Bennett) who lives there with her lusty husband (Luke Evans). But the fact is that Rachel knows this woman: she's Megan, the nanny who takes care of the infant daughter of Rachel's ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who live just a few doors down. And Rachel has a history of stalking them. Then she spots Megan with another man (Edgar Ramirez), just before Megan goes missing. So when Rachel emerges from yet another black-out drunken stupor, she begins to worry about what she might have done.
This is another challenging role for Blunt, who plays the shattered Rachel with raw grit. This is a woman who doesn't trust her own mind, knows that she drinks far too much and feels incapable of getting over her past mistakes. The film also occasionally circles around to show scenes from Megan's and Anna's perspectives, and both Bennett and Ferguson bring superbly unsteady textures to the roles. These are three complex, flawed women dealing with very big issues in their lives. And there are smaller but pivotal roles for the gifted Alison Janney (as a detective), Laura Prepon (as Rachel's flatmate) and Lisa Kudrow (as an old friend). By comparison the men are a bit simplistic.
Continue reading: The Girl On The Train Review
There's a fundamental flaw to this multi-strand social media-themed drama: it's told completely from the perspective of older people who are fearful about the possibilities, rather than the generation for whom electronic communication is the norm. It's well-made by director Jason Reitman (age 36) and his cowriter Erin Cressida Wilson (50) from the novel by Chad Kultgen (38), but it kind of misses the point that this is the future of human interaction. So younger (or more switched-on) viewers won't buy the cautionary message.
IR's set in Austin, Texas, where Rachel and Don (Rosemarie DeWitt and Adam Sandler) are each so focussed on finding space outside their marriage that they don't notice that their teen son Chris (Travis Tope) is hanging out with self-proclaimed slutty cheerleader Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia). Her best friend Allison (Elena Kamporis) is starving herself to be like her, spurred on by her mother (Judy Greer), who is doing everything she can to make Allison a star. Meanwhile, Patricia (Jennifer Garner) is desperate to control how her daughter Brandy (Kaitkyn Dever) uses small-screens, especially worried about her growing friendship with Tim (Ansel Elgort), whose father (Dean Norris) is annoyed that he has quit the school football team.
Oddly, the film seems to adopt the adults' fears as its central tone: the internet and mobile phone communications are potentially dangerous, addictive and isolating. But this makes the film feel more like a sermon than a set of intertwined stories. A far more interesting approach would be to explore how communication and relationships are shifting due to the influence of online media. Indeed, the generational aspects to the films various plotlines are the most compelling elements, with clashing points of view between grown-ups and kids. But audience members who believe that mobile phones and social media sites are the future will struggle with the way Reitman presents them as inherently troublesome.
Continue reading: Men, Women & Children Review
Secretary explodes with juicy innuendo, even from its opening moments. An extending establishing shot plays against mischievously sensual music as a woman seductively strolls through a business office performing secretarial duties. She approaches a desk, staples a few papers, pours fresh coffee into a mug, and then returns to her employer. Sounds ordinary, except that she does these things while locked inside a weird S&M device.
Continue reading: Secretary Review
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