With the extensive advertising appearing everywhere possible, you may be aware that the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins has been transformed into a film which recently hit cinemas in the UK.
The book was very well received by everyone who read it – including myself. It was exciting, scary and an addictive read. The only problem I had with it was the main character Rachel, who I found hard to like. The book is mainly written from her perspective, which means there is a lot of time spent inside Rachel’s head, with her thoughts and emotions which were often very whiney and sorrowful.
Luckily, the film managed to create these thoughts without making Rachel too unbearable. For those of you who haven’t experienced either the book or film, Rachel is an unemployed, alcoholic divorcée who is obsessed with her ex-husband, his new family and their neighbours.
Emily Blunt plays Rachel, and provides an incredible portrayal of this troubled character. Alongside her are Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett, who plays Megan. She’s the character from which the story originates – she’s messed up, mysterious and misunderstood. To add to this talent, there are also surprise appearances from Lisa Kudrow and Orange Is The New Black’s Laura Prepon.
As the book is primarily based in Rachel’s mind, it had a tough job to create a fast-paced film, full of dialogue and actions. The beginning is slow, as we watch Rachel take the train past the houses she is obsessed with watching. A long voiceover sets up the plot and establishes the characters – but it’s lengthly and can mean people lose interest. Once it gets past this, the film is gripping, scary and thrilling, just like the book.
One of the worst things about book adaptations is how much the plot and characters can get changed (don’t get me started on Harry Potter), but The Girl On The Train keeps it almost identical. You get the different perspectives, and events are all kept in line with the descriptions in the book. One of the biggest differences is the setting, as the book is set in London and the film in New York, although this doesn’t make a difference to the story.
As author Paula Hawkins explains in Glamour’s November issue “the key thing is that my heroine, Rachel, is still British. That she’s a foreigner in America adds another dimension to Rachel’s loneliness and isolation: she doesn’t have a family or support network.”
Another change is the emphasis – the book focuses very much on the disappearance of the Megan whereas in the film that becomes part of the background and we find ourselves focused instead on Rachel’s memory.
The director, Tate Taylor, did a good job with what was likely to be a tough adaptation. The storyline was clear despite the different perspectives and timeframes of events. It successfully brought through the tension and fright that the book managed to create, but as with most adaptations, it’s the book which remains the clear favourite here.
Paula Hawkins describes her thoughts on the adaptation process in Glamour: “Watching your book being transformed into a film is fascinating. It becomes the screenwriter and director’s vision. Of course, you don’t agree with absolutely everything the film-makers do, but you have to be relaxed about relinquishing creative control. I think people will really enjoy the film bit in my head, it’s a separate entity to the book.”
3 stars. Worth a watch, even if it’s just the once.
(Read the full article, written by author Paula Hawkins, in Glamour’s November issue out now.)