Based on a British thriller, The Girl on the Train transplants its action from London to New York, trading the relatively mundane experience of downing a Pimm’s on the way out of London for the quiet despair of sipping vodka from a water bottle on the Metro North. Aside from Blunt’s character, who remains British, the main characters all live in and around Irvington, New York. Most of the film's actor try to sound like normal American suburbanites, but despite their best efforts, nearly all of them fail. Let’s explore why.
Rebecca Ferguson (Anna)
The goal: Suburban housewife
The result: A native Swede, Ferguson can pull of a British accent easily (just see The White Queen), but the complexities of an American one seem to have eluded her. Occasionally, Ferguson lands a sentence full of harsh New York vowels, but typically she verges into the Alicia Vikander Jason Bourne special, with nary an “R” in earshot.
Our advice: Commit to a single accent, and stick with it through the whole film. If American is hard, just rewrite the character. For the part of the movie where we thought Anna was a Swedish au pair who married into Westchester society, we were actually kind of fascinated.
Édgar Ramírez (Dr. Kamal Abdic)
The goal: Mysterious therapist
The result: Here's a supremely non-specific, and vaguely xenophobic, description of Dr. Abdic from the Girl on the Train book: “He’s not Asian, he’s from Serbia, or Bosnia, somewhere like that. He’s dark-skinned though. He could pass for Indian from a distance.” The film's attempt isn't much better: Ramírez, who was born in Venezuela, plays Abdic (which is a Bosnian last name) with his own accent. In one scene, he also speaks a few lines in Spanish. When confronted by Blunt's character about his accent, Abdic merely says that he’s an American citizen.
Our advice: Edgar, you're doing just fine. But to the producers: Maybe write a character who's defined by something more specific than being vaguely ethnic.
Emily Blunt (Rachel)
The goal: British drunk
The result: Vulture has tracked Emily Blunt’s accent with great interest through the years, and we’re pleased to report that she has found a part that suits her perfectly. Her character is a British transplant living in America, which means that she sounds like Emily Blunt, a British transplant living in America. And though this doesn't affect her accent, she’s also drunk for most of the movie, with a delivery apparently based on watching a lot of Intervention. To that end, Blunt's version of drunk is a sad, despairing sort of drunk — she sounds more like someone who’s been drugged than your average Saturday-night partier.
Our advice: Remember that drunk people also speak quickly, and slur their words, instead of just slowly mumbling.
Haley Bennett (Megan)
The goal: Jennifer Lawrence
The result: Did you know that Haley Bennett isn’t Jennifer Lawrence, despite their uncanny resemblance? Because The Girl on the Train doesn’t want you to know that. Bennett’s Megan speaks with a placid drawl so similar to Lawrence's that you have to assume her direction was, “Have you seen the parts of Silver Linings Playbook where she doesn’t yell at Robert De Niro? Do that.”
Our advice: Avoid David O. Russell at all costs.
Justin Theroux (Tom):
The goal: I dunno, a guy
The result: Justin Theroux plays Emily Blunt’s ex. He tries to be chipper, especially in the first part of the film, which is weird, because we’re used to see him play devastating sadness on The Leftovers. Other than that, he doesn’t really have to do an accent, since he’s actually American.
Our advice: We don't have much to add. Good work, Justin. We’re sure Jen’s proud.
Luke Evans (Scott):
The goal: Creepy husband
The result: Evans, who is Welsh and can sing (which admittedly isn’t relevant, but the guy can really sing), does a solid imitation of an American bro while playing Bennett’s shady husband. Occasionally, he tries to get a little New Yawk-y, especially during his most intense scenes, but overall, this is some of the most solid work of the bunch.
Our advice: Definitely keep singing. (Luke Evans is playing Gaston next. Perfect.)