The Girl on the Train: Book Versus Movie

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning and has started to feel like she knows one of the people who live in one of the houses she always passes. She calls them “Jess and Jason,” and their life seems perfect. Then Rachel sees something shocking, and now everything’s changed. 

The Girl on the Train was one of the books I enjoyed during our time in ‘Rona Quarantine. This book has been on my TBR  since it was hailed as the next Gone Girl. That’s probably why it’s taken me forever to finally read it  because there was always an extremely long hold on my library when I wanted to read it. All the other bibliophiles also wanted to know if Girl on the Train was as good and twisty as Gone Girl. With The Girl on the Train, I have returned to my Reel Literature roots to compare the adaptation to the novel, pitting one medium against the other to determine which version of The Girl on the Train is the better contender. 

The Characters

I have to give the representation of the characters to the book version of The Girl on the Train because the movie did a terrible job of interpreting the main characters from the novel. The major disappointment was with Rachel. In the book, Rachel is a down-in-the-dumps, depressed, overweight, barely functioning alcoholic. I understand the adaptation not having time to show the depths of Rachel’s depression, but I don’t understand why the Rachel in the movie was not overweight. One of the reasons other people like Tom, Scott, and Anna justified their mistreatment of Rachel was the fact that she wasn’t in shape. I was not able to determine if Rachel was actually fat or “white people” fat, but having Emily Blunt not wear makeup or refuse to comb her hair was not enough to get that point across. Yes, Rachel in the movie was a disheveled mess, but she didn’t experience the additional abuse because of her weight in the movie like she experienced in the book.

The movie representation of Tom was also disappointing. While reading The Girl on the Train, we are able to see the two sides of Tom. He could be sweet and caring one minute. The next minute, he has done a 180 and become a monster. The movie version of Tom always came off as a dick to me. In the end, it just seemed like he took his dickish behavior to the most absurd extreme. I was sickened while reading the book as the threads of Tom’s insidious and psychopathic behavior unraveled and the truth was revealed. I experienced none of that while watching the film, which was disappointing because it was a powerful revelation. 

In this battle of The Girl on the Train: Book Versus Movie, when it comes to the main characters, this win goes to the book.

Book: 1 / Movie: 0

The Setting

The Girl on the Train novel takes place in London while the film moves the story to New York. Although I am not the biggest fan of book stories that take place in Britain being changed to take place in the United States when the adaptation comes around. I absolutely hated when it was done with Matilda, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of it happening to The Girl on the Train. However, I wasn’t as angered by the Americanization of the Britishness of The Girl on the Train as I was with Matilda

Having The Girl on the Train movie take place in New York allowed the story to still be plausible. Since the majority of the story centers around Rachel’s experience on her daily train ride, New York is the only plausible location in America for this story to take place. New York is the only place in the country where many of their citizens commute daily back and forth between work and their suburban home. It’s the Londontown of the United States. Although I would have loved for the movie to actually take place in England, having the movie take place in New York was a reasonable substitute. 

In this battle of The Girl on the Train: Book Versus Movie, when it comes to the setting, this one is a tie, so each medium gets a point.

Book: 2 / Movie: 1

The Story

When it comes to adaptations, the movie usually comes up short because it is often unable to capture the nuance of the book. I knew the adaptation for The Girl on the Train would most likely come up short because of the book’s method of storytelling. The book’s story is complicated with timelines that jump between past and present while also telling the story from multiple points of view. When it comes to the movie, which is only 2 hours, it would be difficult to adeptly pull off the book’s complicated narrative.

For the most part, the movie is able to adequately handle the book mostly by telling an omniscient linear story. However, with the movie concentrating on the highlights of the book, it appears to be a streamlined, yet mediocre adaptation. Instead of getting the story from Megan, Anna, and Rachel’s point of view, we mostly see what is happening to Rachel with the other stories sprinkled into the overall narrative of Rachel dealing with her drinking problem and being way too involved with other people’s business. Overall, the adaptation eliminates the nuance of a twisty, turny mystery that slowly builds to an unsettling conclusion. 

For the story, The Girl on the Train: Book Versus Movie, we have to give it to the book because it’s impossible for this adaptation to capture the entire essence of the source material.

Book: 3 / Movie: 1

Conclusion

It comes as no surprise here! When it comes to The Girl on the Train, the book is definitively better than the movie because the numbers don’t lie. Looking at the story, the setting, and the characters, the book beats the movie 3 to 1. Listen to Mr. J and I, the Dr. K, discuss The Girl on the Train on the podcast:

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