15 – 112mins – 2016
While Paula Hawkins’ fragmentary whodunit is undeniably compulsive and as easy to devour as a surreptitious mid-morning vodka supped from a sports bottle, the inexcusably immoral and downright rotten dramatis personae ultimately meant that this beloved and bestselling thriller failed to garner any emotional response from me.
The same sour issue plagues The Help director Tate Taylor’s much anticipated but highly derided big screen adaptation. Although British star Emily Blunt (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) is masterful in her humbling portrayal of sad sack perma-drunk Rachel Watson, our unreliable narrator is so hopelessly saddled with self-destructive sorrow that it’s hard to route for her plight as she embroils herself in the case of a missing stranger (Haley Bennett) she obsesses over from the commuter carriage she rides morning and night.
Complicating the dubious drama further is the thorny reveal that Bennett’s “model of perfection” Megan and her hunky beau, Scott (Luke “Bard the Bowman” Evans), live just two doors down from Rachel’s former marital home, where her ex, Tom (Justin Zoolander No. 2 Theroux) still resides with his new partner (Rebecca Florence Foster Jenkins Ferguson) and young child.
As a ghastly web of violence, infidelity and, ultimately, murder makes patent that even the most superficially grounded characters are damaged arseholes, Rachel painfully comes to comprehend that you cannot trust anyone, not psychiatrists (Édgar Joy Ramírez), police detectives (Allison Finding Dory Janney) or even your own memory. Lisa Kudrow is okay, though.
While swapping the setting from our shores to across the Atlantic is a wholly unnecessary and frankly desperate example of box office-hungry disloyalty, in its structure, Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay is slavishly faith to Hawkins’ prose, flashing back through the months of investigation from a present day perspective like chapters in a book.
Such muddily incoherence may have been required to the not derail the drip-fed mystery, but when supplemented by an incorrigible cast of characters treating each other like shit, a toxic tonic is fashioned which is not quite a Train wreck, but is so bleak, bitter and darn right depressing it left me with little faith in humanity.
CR@B’s Claw Score: