Showing posts with label Paula Hawkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paula Hawkins. Show all posts

16 October 2016

The Girl on the Train

by Leigh Lundin

When weighing novels versus the movies made from them, books almost alway win. This wasn’t the case with Paula Hawkins’ recent The Girl on the Train. In an exceedingly rare decision, I liked the film slightly better than the book. Depending upon which reviews you read, I may be in the minority. IMDB gave the film 6.7 out of 10 whereas Rotten Tomatoes gave it a splattering 44/56 out of 100. Notice I didn’t say the movie was better, only that I liked it slightly more. I may have responded to the broader target audience of the movie– the original chicklit was unapologetically geared toward women.

Coming out of the theatre, I felt unusually conscious that the novel shaped my perception of the film. Knowing I couldn’t ‘unread’ the book, I wondered how newcomers to the story might view the film. A top review on the Internet Movie Database surprised me:
“… it seemed like an interesting mystery compounded by the black-out memories of the main character and I was anxious to solve it. As it progressed it became apparent that she was truly off kilter due to mainly drinking so it was very confusing. Without revealing the end, it should be noted that this is truly a sicko story filled with dysfunctional people all selfishly pursuing their libidinous desires. Each one cares not for the rights or feelings of others so multiple people get irrevocably hurt. I don't comprehend how anyone can come up with a story like this or would want to. … I remained till the end in the hopes of some redeeming quality…”
Yikes! Was this really how others saw it?

Flicklit v Chicklit

The Girl on the Train
My opinion derives from a masculine standpoint. As I remarked in my earlier commentary about the book, it contained enough internal dialogue to fill two Dr. Phil shows and most of an Oprah season. By omitting much of the introspection, the celluloid artists created a tighter, faster paced plot.

But don’t skip Paula Hawkins’s book; Rachel’s aching situation will break your heart, not to mention you’ll miss a virtual treatise on alcoholism. The final pages of the novel contain a shocking moment the film failed to pull off.

I had grumbled about the director resetting the story in New York for American audiences. An article in The Guardian complained a bit too, but not vociferously. Setting aside that quibble, the casting was well done– the women, their men, and even Detective Riley. She’s terrifying in a nun-with-a-ruler way, but someone you’d want on your side.

Taking Advantage

Movie makers enjoy advantages novelists can’t employ and you see some of that art in the film such as the jiggling, slightly out-of-focus camera when poor Rachel is inebriated. Like the book, the movie kept the train theme seen often in the background.

But theatres can have disadvantages too. Two biddies behind me (biddies in my mind– I didn’t turn around to strangle them) maintained a whispering commentary for those who might not know where the plot was heading. “She’s a blackout drunk, see, and that bitch, she’s actually having an affair, and oh my, that one had an affair too…”

This Film is Rated Я

Not only am I baffled by comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, I'm also flummoxed by the R rating. To be sure, there was a tiny bit of skin at one point, far less than anything seen in a Kardashian photo spread. It's possible the R was handed out for the modicum of blood-letting.

Frankly, it's pretty tame stuff and I hazard the average high school student could handle both the book and the film without fainting.

Improper Prop

A fragment of one scene jolted me and in discussing it, I'll avoid giving away a plot element. The novel mentions a wine bottle opener. In my mind, I pictured a combination knife/corkscrew sometimes called a waiter’s opener, fashioned like a pocketknife with a helical screw and a blade for cutting the seal.

That’s not what the prop department decided upon when they came up with the simpler and much less efficient corkscrew. I found the result jarringly awkward and not as realistic as it could have been.

Have you seen the film? Have you read the book? What is your take?

07 August 2016

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
by Leigh Lundin

In a matter of weeks, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train comes to a theatre near you. The novel comprises a compendium of sorts, a compilation of first person accounts by three women. It is, you might correctly infer, an offshoot of chicklit and contains enough internal dialogue to fill two Dr. Phil shows and most of an Oprah season. It’s most definitely not intended or promoted as a manbook.

But, for a guy fascinated by women, this one enjoyed it.

From time to time, I’ve had to make an unlikeable character likeable, but Paula Hawkins has honed that technique to a science. She accomplishes this through the devices mentioned above: internal thoughts and first person narrative.

The author nails showing-not-telling. She doesn’t tell the reader a character is an alcoholic, she lets you see it. But she takes the show-not-tell to another level of abstraction when the main character, Rachel, looks in on lives from a distance, making guesses and assumptions that naturally might or might not be true.

Even if the characters aren’t immediately likeable, we feel varying degrees of sympathy for most, especially the landlady, Cathy, who gets short shrift. We quietly urge Rachel to get her act together and groan at her many slips. The author could have titled the novel Train Wreck and been right on the mark.

Green Garden

I haven’t thought of Hannah Green’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden since required reading in high school, but a few unreliable brain cells brought that novel to mind. Maybe the only comparison is of a troubled young woman and her inner battle, but perhaps distant memory is suggesting something more. Probably it’s the battle with alcoholism and this book is a veritable textbook on the subject. More than most writings on the topic, the reader will feel empathy in the ‘there but for the grace of God’ moments.

The Girl on the Train has been compared with another popular novel, Gone Girl, but except for the word ‘girl’ in the title and the disappearance of one, I don’t see much similarity. I found Gone Girl more unputdownable, but only for a matter of degree and for different reasons. TGOTT isn’t a thriller like Gone Girl; it’s more gothic and personal. I closed the book reluctantly each evening, wondering how Rachel would get out of the mess she found herself in.

Off the Rails

Railways run as a motif throughout the novel; literally the last word in the book is ‘train’. Cleverly or at least amusingly, Amtrak has been offering on-line excerpts through on-board wifi for passengers travelling through America.

The story uses the device of an unreliable narrator, in this case a woman who suffers from alcoholic blackouts. She may have seen something, but if she did, she can’t remember. The author also employs misdirection; one part in particular navigates a minefield of tricky pronouns. The plot strays from that of a traditional mystery; the protagonist has to figure out what’s in her head and the reader must merely observe rather than solve.

The American MPAA rates the upcoming film R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity, most which appear in minute fragments in the novel if at all. Producers sadly decided to stage the story in New York instead of the UK, so anything’s possible.

And Finally…

One last point: Despite the small measure of action in the novel, the third paragraph from the end is one of the most chilling in fiction.

Read it and creep.