Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Girl on the Train

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

The Girl on the Train (Universal, 2016) – Director: Tate Taylor. Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson (s/p), Paula Hawkins (novel). Stars: Emily Blunt, Hayley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney, Darren Goldstein, Lisa Kudrow, Cleta Elaine Ellington, Lana Young, Rachel Christopher, Fernando Medina, & Gregory Morley. Color, Rated R, 112 minutes.

Not to be confused with the 2009 movie of the same title, this one is based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, the book that “shocked the world.” Frankly, it didn’t shock me. Classified as a mystery/thriller, it was neither too mysterious nor thrilling. It starts and ends in the worst way, with bland, slightly bored sounding narration by the title character.

Rachel Watson (Blunt) and her husband Tom (Theroux) are trying to have a baby, and failing. Even in vitro fertilization doesn’t do the trick and they are running out of funds to cover the cost. To ease the pain, Rachel slips into a bottle and becomes an alcoholic while Tom fools around with the real estate agent. Rachel’s blackouts afford Tom ample opportunity to accuse her of violence for the time she can’t recall until even she believes it. An explosive scene at a dinner party thrown by Tom’s boss Martha (Kudrow) appears to clinch her manic outbursts.

They get divorced. Rachel moves out of their house in Ardsley, N.Y., (the book is set in England) and stays with a friend, Cathy (Prepon). Tom marries Anna (Ferguson), the real estate agent, and they have a daughter, Evie.

Having been fired from her job due to her alcoholism, Rachel uses her alimony to ride back and forth to New York City on the Metro-North railroad to keep the illusion of still having a job to Cathy. When she passes the Ardsley station she sees Scott and Megan Hipwell (Evans and Bennett), who live a couple of houses down from Tom. She fantasizes them as the perfect couple, the ones who have what she never got, until she sees Megan kissing her therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Ramirez). Rachel is outraged.

Megan babysits for Tom and Anna, but quits when she becomes bored of it, and disappears. When Rachel involves herself in the quest for Megan, her repeated appearances at her old house label her as a stalker and a person of interest to Detective Riley (Janney). When Megan turns up dead, all fingers point to Rachel.

The Girl on the Train is a mediocre Hitchcock wannabe with all the earmarks and plot twists, but none of the gorgeous suspense the master would include. The trailers are more thrilling than the actual film. Even Danny Elfman’s excellent music does nothing to add to the mystery and shock the movie should generate.

The hour and 52 minutes creep by and could be shortened to an hour and a half by cutting several scenes where someone asks Rachel a question and she just sits there with a blank expression on her face. I guess Emily Blunt is trying to convey mental overload at probing her blackouts but it doesn’t come across that way. 

The narration is uninteresting and fails to set up the movie for the audience. Justin Theroux, on the other hand, is the perfect cad. Haley Bennett plays the bored slut to the hilt and even I was not surprised that her character is murdered. I have no complaints about Luke Evans except that he got shorted on his part. And Edgar Ramirez had serious trouble keeping his Middle-Eastern accent.

If it weren’t for the many flashbacks, no one in the audience would have a clue as to what was going on. And then there are the “F” bombs whenever frustration arises, which are completely unnecessary. The most interesting parts for me were the two times Rachel returns to the Conservatory Gardens in the north part of Central Park and sits by the fountain sketching the nymphs and the final confrontation scene. All the rest was filler. I’ll stick with the book.

Rating: 1½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

The Gin Parlour (in the Hotel Intercontinental)
111 E. 48th St.New York

Inspired by Dutch and English gin bars of the 1920s” says the website of this six-month-old hotel bar, displaying a picture of cream-colored walls, a fireplace with the ornate gilded mirror above it, and a brocaded wing chairs flanking an oval cocktail table against a backdrop of striped curtains.

I had to ask a hotel employee if what I saw when I entered the hotel was actually The Gin Parlour, as it simply looked like a large oval bar set up a few stairs from the sweeping main lobby, with no indication of a title. 

There was no Captain’s Station. I walked past the bar and hoped that someone would see and seat me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. One of the servers seated me in a corner of the room facing the bar. The striped curtains were there but drawn back and inelegantly tied. I didn’t see a fireplace and there were no wing chairs. All illusion of charm was dashed, and the flat screen television playing sports on the far wall tossed the last of whatever atmosphere there was out the window.

So what was keeping me there? The fact that the website boasted 88 different gins in their stock. When I met Julio, my server, he corrected that total to 95 gins. In my dining experiences, I’ve only made the acquaintance of about a dozen of them. Julio presented me with the flip-style menu which included wines and cocktails, and, the gin list, which was most impressive. I almost wish there had been an entry listing a “flight” of gins to make comparisons. But I ordered my Beefeater martini and it was made perfectly.

In the food section of the menu there were categories of Bites, Shellfish, Small Plates, Greens & Entrées, Between the Bread (Burgers), and Desserts. I chose one “bite,” one “small plate” and an entrée, plus a Merlot from Long Island that seemed like a good choice to go with my meal. But I was informed they were out of the wine. So with Julio’s assistance I chose a lovely 2015 “Loca Linda” Malbec Mendoza Argentina. Usually Malbecs are too heavy for the dishes I chose but this one was lighter bodied, with full fruits and mild tannins and a beautiful red color.

Another server brought out the bread basket. The sourdough baguette was almost as difficult to tear as to chew. I switched to the seven-grain roll which was much more malleable and tasty.

The first dish was Alphabet City soft pretzels – truffle cheddar and garlic parsley soft pretzels with a Pork Slap beer (a New York brewery) mustard and cheese dip. It’s a weakness of mine, but I love pretzels and this was an adventure. The parsley was not intrusive in the flavor of the one pretzel and the cheddar did not overpower the other. The dip was just right.

Next was a dish I’ve seen nowhere else and just had to try it. The Broiled Oysters “Reuben” combined Gruyere, crumbled corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, and Barclay pickle relish with small West Coast oysters for a strange, but novel taste. I enjoyed it but would probably not order it again.

I’m basically a carnivore, so you know that when I order fish, the meat dishes were not crying out to me. The Montauk bass was served with chorizo, corn, local clams and summer squash in a beautiful piquant (lemons) golden sauce. The fish was delicate enough to cut with a fork and the combination with the Spanish sausage was remarkable. The two flavors worked together to create a savory whole. I doubt if the meat dishes could have compared.

Surprisingly, I did not order a side dish, because none were offered on the menu. Neither was one needed. The main course was quite complete. For dessert I ordered the “Chocolate Crunch” – dark chocolate mousse and pralines – which was almost too pretty to eat. It was like a large chocolate goose egg resting on a nest of pralines with silver and white pearls perched on top. The mousse was delicious, not the best I’ve had, but surely not the worst. A double espresso later and I was finished.

The Gin Parlour is not a bad place to dine. The food is good, at times unusual, the service is impeccable and friendly and I have to try some new gins when I return. They actually have a pink gin from Germany! Who knew? What I would like to have them recapture is the charm of the 1920s they tout on the website. But they’re young still. Hopefully, they’ll learn.

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