Allison Janney

The Girl on the Train

10/10/16

The Girl on the Train‘s transition from page to screen was inevitable: Paula Hawkins’ novel has been a huge hit, its popularity earning its author over ten million dollars, and pretty much guaranteeing that this film adaptation will attract a large audience.

It’s a thriller, of sorts, unpicking the tangled lives of three women. Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a tragic figure, an alcoholic, obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and the baby she never had. Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is Tom’s new wife, and Megan (Haley Bennett), is a neighbour who works as Tom and Anna’s nanny  (yes, they do have a baby) and seems to have the perfect life – at least, as far as Rachel can tell from what she glimpses from the train. Let’s be honest, the story stretches credulity at times, and it’s kind of irritating that the women are all defined by their motherhood – or lack thereof. It verges on the histrionic in places, and there are moments where it lacks pace or drive. But, where it works, it does work well.

There’s a change of location: we’re in New York instead of London, but this isn’t detrimental to the film. In fact, the cinematography is lovely; the contrasts between the urban mayhem and the glassy smoothness of the lake help add a layer of eeriness and tension to the piece. And the shift is only geographical: the social and sexual mores of affluent white suburbanites seem similar in both locales.

Emily Blunt in particular deserves some accolades: she absolutely convinces as the drunken, broken Rachel, desperately searching for a way back to herself. And there’s a stellar supporting cast, including the ever fabulous Allison Janney and the ‘why-doesn’t-she-do-more?’ Lisa Kudrow.

Overall, then, it’s kind of… okay. There’s a soggy middle section where your mind might wander, but you’ll be pulled back in for the rather racier (if somewhat predictable) ending.

If you liked the book, you’ll probably like this.

3.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Tallulah

tallulah

18/09/16

Netflix’s filmic arm continues to grow in stature and Tallulah is a fine example of the kind of project they do particularly well. It reunites Juno’s Ellen Page and Allison Janney, in an absorbing and entertaining story about relationships. Page (who has complained that she struggles to find decent screen roles since coming out as gay, obviously knows a good script when she sees one – she executive-produced this film).

Tallulah (Page) is a rootless young woman, who lives in a van and drifts around America making ends meet by indulging in petty crime. Her boyfriend, Nico (Evan Jonigkeit) is however, beginning to miss the stability of his former home (he hasn’t been back there for two years) and suggests that they pay a call on his mother, Margo (Janney) an academic living alone in a luxury New York apartment after her husband left her and moved in with a man. Tallulah is less than keen on the idea and she and Nico have an argument. The following morning, Tallulah wakes to discover that Nico has walked out on her.

She promptly heads off to Margo’s apartment asking if she has seen Nico, but Margo sends her packing. Shortly afterwards, Tallulah has a chance encounter with Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard) a character who initially seems to have been created to illustrate a ‘how not to parent’ video. Carolyn has a hot date that night and enlists Tallulah (who she’s never met before) to look after her toddler while she’s gone – but Tallulah decides to take the little girl and heads back to Margo’s place…

Tallulah is a decidedly amoral character but Page invests her with great charm, hinting at the damage that was caused to her when she was abandoned by her own mother as a little girl; Janney meanwhile, is on terrific form as a prickly introvert woman who finds all relationships difficult – her clumsy attempt to seduce an amorous doorman is a delight. As the two women spend time in each other’s company, a powerful bond develops between them; but meanwhile, the police are investigating what is, after all, a kidnapping and it soon becomes apparent that things cannot end well for Tallulah.

This is a superior slice of drama, nicely acted, wittily scripted and directed by Sian Heder. More than anything else, it’s a film about women and their relationships – and it absolutely aces the Bechdel test. If you have Netflix, you really should check it out. If you don’t, this could be a valid reason to sign up.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney