‘The Girls on the Train’ shows darker side of suburbia

girlontrainposterThe mystery genre is full of stories capitalizing on the words of unreliable witnesses to crimes. “The Girl on the the Train” puts a different spin on this concept by having the main character be an alcoholic who often wants to be a witness but can’t remember if she actually saw anything or not.

Rachel Watson (played be Emily Blunt) misses her idyllic life married to Tom Watson (played by Justin Theroux). But that’s gone. He’s remarried to Anna Watson (played by Rebecca Ferguson), and the two have a child together. Rachel spends her days riding the train into town from her suburban home while sipping vodka in order to keep the shakes and memories at bay.

On these train rides, going to an imaginary job to keep her roommate content about her ability to continue to pay rent, Rachel imagines what life could have been by staring out at the rows of houses along the train tracks. Her former home is there, along with her ex-husband and his new wife. A couple houses down is the home of the ideal couple. Rachel gives them names and imagines how their lives are progressing. She becomes close, even intimate, with them without ever meeting them for real.

That perfect couple in Rachel’s eyes is actually Scott and Megan Hipwell (played byLuke Evans and Haley Bennett), and Megan goes missing. Rachel is an obvious suspect because she is often seen in the neighborhood while being drunk because of her hobby harassing Tom and Anna. Rachel doesn’t think she could ever hurt someone she considers a friend, but, the night of Megan’s disappearance, Rachel was in rare form. She remembers nothing except she woke up bloodied and dirty.

This sets off a series of events in which Rachel attempts to remember. Along the way she lies her way into quasi-friendship with the prime suspect, attends therapy sessions for dubious reasons, alienates her roommate and makes a new ally, all culminating in surprise revelations about Megan and several others.

“Girl” proves to be a slowly opening flower. Each new development leads to the next until everything is exposed. The twists are turns are fun, and even when you think you might have it figured out, you can’t be sure until the end when everything starts to fall into place.

This movie isn’t a masterpiece by any means. It is just a good bit of entertainment based upon a wildly successful novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins. I had read the novel months prior, and I enjoyed it. It drug on in a few places, but it truly built up the suspenseful twist ending. The movie does an OK job of this. The format allows for the slower parts of the book to sped up, but the movie did seem to rush the suspense toward the end.

None of the characters are likable. However, as the story begins to progress, you do feel a bit of sympathy for a few of them. For me, this was particularly the case when it came to Rachel and Megan.

One glaring difference between the book and the movie was the setting. The book was set in England, but the book was set in New York. I don’t know why this change had to be made, but it worked well enough because the point isn’t the setting. The point is how nothing is at it seems.

The book came out in January 2015, following the success of the June 2012 bestseller by Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”. These two mystery stories are undoubtedly going to be compared, and it makes sense. Both have leading female characters, and both highlight how even if people seem perfect on the surface, the truth is usually vastly different. However, you can’t compare them directly.

“The Girl on the Train” focuses on Rachel’s life spiraling out of control and her inability to remember what happened, even though she knows deep down she was present at Megan’s disappearance. She doesn’t know if she was involved or not. In “Gone Girl,” the story centers on a marriage in trouble and only the victim truly knows what happened. Similar, but these are key differences that cast an entirely different light on the situation.

“The Girl on the Train” is rated R for its language, nudity and adult situations. It has a runtime of 1 hour, 45 minutes. It isn’t a family movie, but it would make a great date-night flick. This is one psychological thriller you should see. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Tech Transforms Dining Out Experience

(Family Features) Satisfying a craving has become easier than ever with the growing menu of interactive tools available at restaurants. From ordering to entertaining to rewarding, these resources make it simple to enjoy visiting your favorite eateries.

With technology transforming nearly every other aspect of life, it should come as no surprise that mobile and electronic tools, such as Outback Steakhouse’s new mobile app, are fast-growing restaurant trends.

Other enhancements make it faster and more entertaining to dine away from home. To make the most of your next meal out, find out which of the following services your favorite restaurants is offering:

Mobile apps. You use your smartphone for everything else, so why not at your favorite restaurant? Mobile apps give customers more control over their dining experience, allowing them to choose how and when they want to pay the bill, receive exclusive offers, join the wait list and check in. Using the new Outback Steakhouse mobile app, you can peruse the menu ahead of time and when the meal is done, there’s no need to wait for the bill; you can pay right from your phone, split the check, add a tip and even securely store payment details for future visits. To learn more, visit outback.com/app.

Call ahead seating. While you used to have to physically go to a restaurant and wait in line, you can now call ahead to find out the estimated wait time and put your party on the list for now or a later time, before walking out your door. Some restaurants even allow you to view the current wait times and join the list on their websites.

Online ordering. When restaurants first began offering carry out menus, you had to physically go to the restaurant, place your order and wait while it was prepared. Today, you can either call your order in or with a few clicks, place your order online and have it delivered or ready for carry out at the time you choose. Some restaurants even allow you to save favorite orders for future use.

Interactive table kiosks. This trend started with tableside games for simple entertainment while you waited for your order, but quickly evolved into much more. Now, not only can you pass the time playing games solo or with table mates, you can peruse the menu, place orders and pay your bill all on your own schedule.

Rewards programs. Whether you’re earning stamps or swiping a card, rewards programs can pay big for frequent customers. Basic approaches involve a punch or stamp card that accumulates toward a free menu item. More sophisticated programs let guests earn points toward free or discounted meals, offer exclusive discounts and engage patrons in special promotions. The Bloomin’ Brands’ Dine Rewards program, coming this summer, will allow customers to earn up to 50 percent off their fourth visit to any one of its restaurants, including Outback Steakhouse.

Through technology, restaurant service has evolved into an uber-personal affair. Interacting with the special features available through your favorite restaurants lets you customize nearly every aspect of your culinary experience.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Family Features, Sponsored by Outback