In Title Matchup we pit two films with the exact same title against each other to see which comes out on top. Today’s versus match is between Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train (2016) and André Téchiné’s The Girl on the Train (2009).
The Girl on the Train (2016)
Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train became an instant bestseller upon release, so when the inevitable film adaptation came along, it was met with unavoidably high expectations. Sadly, those expectations aren’t met. Emily Blunt plays Rachel, an unemployed, alcoholic divorcée who spends her daily commute fantasising about a woman named Megan (Haley Bennet), living a seemingly ‘perfect’ life next to her now remarried ex-husband (Justin Theroux). After one of her heavy binge sessions, she wakes up the next morning bloodied, bruised and a suspect in Megan’s sudden disappearance. With little recollection of what happened the night before, the story then follows the dishevelled Rachel as she attempts to uncover the truth of that fateful, blurry night. Though not a complete train wreck, Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train (2016) mishandles its multifaceted narrative and fails to bring the thrills and the mystery that’s expected from the very best psychological thrillers. The need to tie all the loose ends together in the film’s finale also makes for a wholly unsatisfying ending bereft of ambiguity.
The Girl on the Train (2009)
In 2009, a troubled woman in her twenties walked into a Paris police station claiming she’d been publicly attacked on a train by a gang of anti-Semites. The incident made national headline news, caused widespread outrage and even forced President Jacques Chirac to make a statement condemning the attacks. Four days later, however, it was revealed she’d made the whole thing up. This tell-tale fable is the inspiration for The Girl on the Train (2009), André Téchiné’s studied drama starring Émilie Dequenne as the ‘girl’ and Catherine Deneuve as her mother. A conventional retelling of this story would be in the form of a thriller in which the truth slowly unravels as the drama progresses, but Téchiné elects to do a simplified character study, which comes with its own frustrating downsides. Though the film’s not without intrigue, its refusal to explore the impact of her lies outside the remit of a small group of characters makes for an exasperating watch.
This is a peculiar situation in which it’s difficult to recommend either, but I’d sooner take Téchiné’s slow journey into a thought-provoking subject, than Taylor’s lavish but mediocre thrill ride.
Winner: The Girl on the Train (2009)