I suppose something was lost in translation when Paula Hawkins’s best-selling novel was set in England and this movie is set in the ‘burbs of upstate New York. Still, this uninspired screen adaptation by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Chloe) isn’t going to make Amtrak very popular.
We start with title cards that introduce us to the main female players of Anna, Rachel, and Megan. Each one has a story to tell, but it’s Rachel (Emily Blunt) who’s the alcoholic girl on the train that starts the ball rolling and gives us the jumbled narration. Y’see, she rides the train twice daily into NYC, even though she lost her job a year ago because of the bottle. Her glimpses into a certain house she routinely sees, gives her reason to construct a fantasy about the lives there. The young women Rachel obsessives about is troubled Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), the wife of really abusive and controlling Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans).
AND it just so happens that Megan is the nanny of Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, who also happens to live two doors down. However, Megan just quit because of some mysterious reasons and Tom (Justin Theroux) is coping with Rachel’s constant drunken phone calls and annoying texts. Oh, and did I mention that Megan is secretly seeing a psychiatrist (Edgar Ramirez) because of a deeply depressing incident and a loveless marriage? Yeah, all these damaged people are having a real great day. BUT! It gets worse!
During a drunken binge, Rachel stalks Megan because of what she thinks she sees from the train, and confronts her in a darken park tunnel. Later, Rachel awakes back home with dried blood on her and the TV saying that Megan is missing and later found dead! Uh-oh! Enter Detective Riley (Allison Janney) who, even though she knows Rachel is a drunk, can’t believe anything she says. . . especially vital information about who might have killed Megan. Left with only flashes of images of what happened, Rachel decides to tell jealous Scott about what she saw. Or might have seen.
In and out of drunken fogs, Rachel tries to give up the booze long enough to piece together the events of that night and, when her head finally clears and she realizes who really killed Megan, but nobody believes her. The ending is just about as predictable as it is boring. The main problem isn’t the actors, as they give decent enough performances; Blunt makes a credible drunk with her slurred words and intoxicated looks and Evans is absolutely creepy and repugnant. Bennett, who was so strong in last month’s The Magnificent Seven, is more of a forlorn kitten here, while Theorux and Ferguson barely register.
No, the problem is the tedious script and Tate Taylor’s lackluster direction, which is surprising since he gave us the terrific The Help. Here he hiccups with characterizations that don’t pay off, numerous annoying floating steady-cam close-up shots, and serves up a plot completely free of suspense, mystery, or those pesky little things like excitement and peril. Instead, Taylor gives you a sumptuous banquet of bland ho-hum storytelling that goes on for a droopy two hours. The guy next to me fell asleep, I kid you not!
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Steve Guttenberg, he of the boyish good looks and the most ridiculous comedies ever made on Earth (the Police Academy movies, Short Circuit, High Spirits) attempted to spin his career into new waters with a suspenseful murder/mystery that cast him as the lead. Needless to say, it didn’t work. At all.
Guttenberg plays against type (waaaaaaaaay against type) as Terry Lambert, a normal Joe at the office who just so happens to be having an affair with his boss’ wife! His clueless boss, Colin Wentworth (Paul Shenar), runs his development company and hasn’t the time to devote to his lovely French wife, Sylvia (Isabelle Huppert). That’s where Terry comes in and nails her in his apartment, but one night things gets dicey. As Terry is in the bathroom, Sylvia eyewitnesses an attack on Denise (Elizabeth McGovern) by vicious rapist, beady-eyed Chris Henderson (Brad Greenquist) on the street below. But just as Chris gets away, he manages to get a good look at Sylvia up at the window! Uh-oh!
Thinking he’ll be a stand-up kinda guy, Terry tells the police that HE saw the attack (after getting all the vital details from Sylvia), after all, Sylvia can’t say SHE saw it, now can she?! But Terry’s heroism backfires as his “eyewitness” account is put to the test in a court of law with the defense attorney (a brilliant Wallace Shawn) hammering away at Terry’s plot holes. Henderson is free to go, but he’s not quite done yet. With revenge on his mind, he decides to kill Sylvia, the REAL witness to his crime (spoiler alert: he’s really a serial killer) and while doing so, frames Terry for the murder!
Terry, now on the lam for a murder he didn’t commit, seeks refuge with the only one that believes him: Denise, the girl that was first attacked. Together they plan an elaborate and really dumb scheme in a bar (with cheap Halloween wigs) to lure Chris out. The ending is supposed to be tense and exciting, but just ends up being silly and laughable. Guttenberg tried to be serious in this film, but it just didn’t work for him. Playing a philandering untrustworthy guy whose life is being turned upside-down and inside-out was clearly out of his range. After this, he went on to do his kind of films: goofy, fun movies where he could be more himself.
The movie, based on the novel The Witnesses by Anne Holden, was adapted by Curtis Hanson (who also directed), who did such great screenplays like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and L.A. Confidential. Miscasting was clearly a factor here, with Guttenberg as the poor choice as the lead and French actress Huppert who, although she looked nice naked, had the acting chops of a baguette. The script also had some weak third act issues with padding the story to inflate the running time to almost two hours. A current remake is being touted with Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco in the lead and screenwriter Kevin Williamson (The Scream franchise) at the helm.