The film with Emily Blunt The girl on the train, released in theaters this week, is the latest example of a Hollywood trend that excites me a lot: the return and elevation of a certain genre of thriller, the genre that features cute suburban couples with beautiful kitchens whose lives are torn apart by something within their own social sphere.
As pointed out in this space almost exactly three years ago, these types of thrillers have had a tough time on the dawn of the new millennium. With studios favoring giant blockbusters, Oscar-winning dramas and low-budget horror instead, the architecturally resplendent suburban thriller has strayed.
And came Missing girl in 2014 – David Fincher and Gillian Flynn’s masterful adaptation of Flynn’s best-selling book captured the hearts and minds of collective culture to a degree perhaps never seen in Fatal attraction in 1987. It saved the subgenre and demonstrated that there was still a lot of stories to be tapped into in this area, and more importantly, more money to be made.
Just as the book by Paula Hawkins on which it is based became a success in the wake of the publishing phenomenon that was Flynn’s. Gone Girl, the girl on the train is positioned and received as a cinematic successor to the film Ben Affleck / Rosamund Pike.
Blunt stars as Rachel, a somewhat tragic alcoholic who takes more than a passing interest in the seemingly idyllic couple she voyeuristically observes every day on her train ride to New York (who has changed from London in the book). When a mysterious fate befalls the woman she was watching, Rachel becomes more involved in the situation, which puts her in touch with her ex-husband and his new family.
The key trait of all of these thrillers, aside from the Beautiful Kitchens, is that the threat presented isn’t some inexplicable, larger-than-life external force – it comes from within. It comes from the people we love. The people we live with. The people we thought we knew.
Movies hold power because this threat has often unsettled what one might describe as an idealized and ambitious lifestyle.
The girl on the train is the most publicized film of its kind to arrive since Missing girl, but there were also a few other notables Yuppies in peril movies released in the last few years, and there’s a doozy on the horizon.
Last years Gift is a fantasy thriller that turned out to be a minor hit in America, but goes under-seen elsewhere. Australian actor Joel Edgerton wrote, directed, and performed the role of Gordo, a high school acquaintance of Simon (Jason Bateman) who, although he hasn’t seen him for twenty years, introduces himself and awkwardly tries to get out of his way. befriend Simon and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall).
Gift overlays the familiar conventions of this genre of story with a welcome degree of emotional complexity and insight, a trait common to the best modern examples of this genre of thrillers, and something Missing girl also well done. Besides suddenly announcing himself as a writer / director to watch, Edgerton is perfectly creepy as Gordo. Bateman’s specific brand of deadpan smarm has never been better used.
Another great recent example is The invitation, an independent American film that proves that you no longer need a giant budget to present a glossy thriller.
Logan Marshall-Green (currently starring in SoHo’s stellar drama series Career) plays Will, a divorcee who, along with his current girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), attends a fancy dinner Hollywood Hills home of his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman from Game Of Thrones). A group of their old friends will also be there, marking the first time they have all reunited since a tragedy separated the group several years earlier.
Although Will is clearly in a paranoid and suggestible state of mind, he cannot ignore his instincts when he suspects something is going on. The film is a categorical reaffirmation of the directorial prowess of Karyn Kusama, who made an exhilarating debut in 2000 with A battle between girls, then suffered from the terrible 2005 adaptation of Eon stream before doing the 2009 Jennifer’s body.
Although not a great commercial success, The invitations the undeniable excellence has made Kusama a hot property again, and I just hope she makes another Yuppies In Peril movie afterwards. She is very good at it.
After The girl on the train, the next film in this direction is the highly anticipated by Tom Ford Nocturnal animals (released in New Zealand on November 10), the glowing buzz around that guarantees it a central place at the Oscars table next year.
Amy Adams plays an art gallery owner (a perfect job for Yuppies In Peril) who perceives a veiled threat from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) when she reads the new manuscript of her novel. The genres of thrillers that we celebrate here get a classy look and feel, and that’s something we can count on Tom Ford to deliver. I couldn’t be more excited for this movie.
It’s nice to see you again, Yuppies In Peril movies.