Tag Archives: Rebecca Ferguson

All Aboard

‘The Girl on the Train’ is dark, juicy fem-centric thriller

Film Title: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
Starring Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett & Rebecca Ferguson
Directed by Tate Taylor
R

“My husband used to tell me I have an overactive imagination,” says Rachel (Emily Blunt), watching the scenes of New York’s Hudson Valley go by as she stares out the window of the train she takes on her daily commute into the city.

Those scenes, that train and that “girl”—Rachel—drive the drama in the highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of British author Paula Hawkins’ 2015 thriller, which has sold some 11 million copies worldwide.

After her divorce, Rachel spiraled even deeper into her alcohol-soaked resentment—and it tortures her every day when the train passes her old house, now occupied by her former husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife and former mistress, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their new baby daughter.

Haley Bennett

Haley Bennett

But it’s another house, and another set of occupants, that really intrigues Rachel. A beautiful young blonde woman (Haley Bennett) and her adoring husband (Luke Evans) seem to be so obviously, passionately, completely in love. Sipping on vodka as the train zips by, morning and night, Rachel fantasizes about them, and especially about her. “She’s what I lost,” she muses. “She’s everything I want to be.”

The young woman’s name is Megan, and she works as Anna and Tom’s nanny—and loathes it.

As Rachel’s bitterness about Tom and Anna grows, her voyeuristic beguilement with Megan intensifies when she sees her in the embrace of another man, triggering Rachel’s memories of her own husband’s unfaithfulness. One evening Rachel goes on a drunken tirade about Anna the “whore,” takes the train to her neighborhood, but then blacks out—and wakes up the next morning covered in mud and blood.

And Megan has disappeared—or worse. When Allison Janney steps in as a homicide detective, it becomes a murder case. (Did the screen suddenly pick up a stream of CSI: Westchester County or something?) Did Rachel do it? She honestly doesn’t remember. And as blurry as her memory is, she wants to find out the truth, as twisted as it might turn out to be.

Rebecca Ferguson

Rebecca Ferguson

Tate Taylor—who also directed The Help (2011), another drama with a powerful female ensemble—builds the mystery by toggling between Rachel, Megan and Anna and each of their stories, going backward and forward in time to pick up pieces of the fractured, fragmented puzzle.

The performances are all super-solid, especially from the three women playing the triad of females in various states of personal misery and psychological abuse; as the movie takes us deeper into their stories, we see how they all connect, interweave and eventually collide. It’s about secrets, lies, loneliness, love, infidelity, rage, motherhood, things that aren’t always as they seem, and layers and layers of buried hurt and loss that finally come frothing to the surface, spilling into the light. The shocking conclusion splashes out dark, red and juicy—a catharsis that taps a wellspring of pent-up emotions.

Emily Blunt is an extremely versatile actress who’s done musicals (Into the Woods), comedy (The Devil Wears Prada), sci-fi (Edge of Tomorrow, Looper), family flicks (The Muppets), fairy-tale fantasy (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and action (Sicaro). Now she’s landed a role that will get her even more serious mainstream attention. For her, especially, this Train is just the ticket.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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High Notes

Meryl Streep Gives Moving Musical Performance in ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

Florence Foster Jenkins
Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant & Simon Helberg
Directed by Stephen Frears
PG-13

“I’ve got the music in me,” proclaimed singer Kiki Dee in her pumping, thumping Top 20 hit of 1974. “I’ve got the music in me, I’ve got the music in me!”

Some three decades before Kiki Dee, another singer made a similar proclamation, when matronly New York City socialite Florence Foster Jenkins was filled with a lifelong, over-abundant love of music—but a serious lack of talent.

Director Stephen Frears, whose resume also includes The Queen, Philomena and Dangerous Liasons, brings Jenkins’ quirky story to the screen with humor as well as heart, never crossing over into camp or parody in a tale that certainly couldn’t gone there. Meryl Streep has proven she can indeed sing, and quite well—in Mamma Mia!, Into the Woods and Ricki and the Flash—which makes her enthusiastic off-key yelping, peeping and squawking as Florence all the more of a marvel.

After a big-screen, major-role absence of several years, it’s good to see Hugh Grant back. He’s terrific as Florence’s common-law husband, St Clair Bayfield, who loves her dearly and shields her from “mockers and scoffers” by bribing newspaper critics and making sure audiences at her concerts are packed with friends and supporters.

Simon Helberg

Simon Helberg

Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz on TV’s The Big Bang Theory) has a major role as Jenkins’ young piano accompanist, Cosme McMoon. At first incredulous at her ineptitude, McMoon later comes—as we do—to admire and respect Jenkins’ childlike innocence and the purity of her desire to share music with others in the “profound communion” of performance.

The movie takes its basic setup—a biopic of a pop-cultural footnote character—and fleshes it out in engrossing detail. We see the tremendous lengths to which Bayfield and others in Florence’s elite social circle go to protect—and enable—her. Florence’s vocal coach uses phrases like “You’ve never sounded better” and “There is no one quite like you” to avoid hurting her feelings and pointing out her clear shortcomings.

Bayfield’s long-term relationship with a mistress (Rebecca Ferguson) is strained by his equal devotion to Florence. “It’s complicated,” he tells McMoon. And indeed it is. We learn the heartbreaking reason Florence and Bayfield never married, never had children and never had a “real” marriage—and how Florence’s doomed first marriage, when she was 18, left her devastated and damaged, in more ways than one.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINSWe learn of the tragic medical condition—and its toxic treatments—that may have led to some, or many, of Florence’s oddball behaviors, phobias or even delusions.

But mostly we learn of a singer who loved to sing, who had a dream of doing it at Carnegie Hall, and about the unconventional love story at the center of it all.

“They may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing,” says Florence toward the end of the film, in a final, parting nod toward her naysayers who refused to see—or hear—the unbridled joy and happiness of her out-of-tune operatics.

“Bravo,” Bayfield replies with a bittersweet smile. And bravo, Meryl Streep, for a moving performance that reminds us that music, like any gift, is one meant to be shared, and that in 1944, Florence Foster Jenkins followed the music “in her.”

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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