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By Tatira Zwinoira
Number one New York Times best seller, The Girl on the Train, authored by Zimbabwean Paula Hawkins had its film adaptation of the same name released this weekend.
As such, the critic spin doctors are already touting the film to open in the $20 to $30 million region as the producers seek to feed off the popularity of the novel.
This marks the first time that a Zimbabwean author has had their book adapted by a major film studio, DreamWorks Pictures, into a Hollywood film.
According to a report by the New York Times, Hawkins was born and raised in Harare. Her father Tony is an economics professor and financial journalist based in Harare.
Paula moved to London with her family when she was 17, but her parents returned to Zimbabwe a few years later. She stayed in the United Kingdom where she studied economics, politics as well as philosophy and eventually became a business reporter for The Times of London.
She then wrote the book The Girl On the Train, with studio DreamWorks Pictures later adapting the book.
The film adaption, similar to the book, tells the story of Rachel Watson, played by British actress Emily Blunt, who catches daily glimpses of a seemingly perfect couple, Scott and Megan Hipwell (played by Luke Evans and Hayley Bennet respectively) from the window of her train ride on a regular basis. One day, Watson witnesses something shocking unfold in the backyard of the strangers’ home.
Rachel tells the authorities what she thinks she saw after learning that Megan is now missing and feared dead. Unable to trust her own memory, the troubled woman begins her own investigation, while police suspect that Rachel may have crossed a dangerous line.
The book on which the film is based became popular for its high suspense and deep psychological themes that keep one guessing from page one to the last.
The film tries to effectively use this formula of slow building suspense but struggles to maintain it at some parts of the film.
Suspense films that have gone on to become hits have done so due to maintaining that unpredictability, also including the ability to raise the emotions of the audience.
The film has a rating of 45% on international critic website Rotten Tomatoes.
What worked for the film are the actors who were really able to correctly channel the characters of the books.
Blunt, who plays the titular character, is of particular mention as her movies in the past three years are getting more and more serious from her usual roles.
The film’s release date might help it offset the fact that the director struggled to raise the suspense levels to maximum.
The Girl On the Train will no doubt enjoy the fact that this is the time when older cinema goers flock the cinemas in United States, seeking more mature themed films.
My estimate for its opening box office tally would also agree with the $20 to $30 million region.
Another new release this weekend will be Oscar hopeful The Birth of a Nation, which will not probably make a big splash in terms of box office numbers, as is the general trend with Oscar hopefuls, but it will not doubt resonate well with audiences.
Of course, some Oscar hits have gone to become blockbuster films.
The film is based on a popular slave rebel leader called Nat Turner, played by Nate Parker, who is taught to read from an early age so he can study the Bible and be a preacher to fellow slaves.
However, when Turner’s master takes him across the country on a preaching tour to profit from his work, Turner, put off by the treatment towards slaves, decides to become a different leader and inspires a rebellion.
Turner was born in October 2 1800 and later went on to lead successful rebellions from state to state that led to the deaths of 55 to 65 white owners who unfairly treated their slaves. It was not until November 11 1831 that he was hanged for causing the rebellion.
The film showcases the human side of Turner and portrays him as an idealist in search for the equal treatment of black people.
It does well to provide a bit of history of how the earlier black Americans struggled and is no doubt targeted at that audience.
The performance of Parker is of note as the slowly rising star has grown over the years from performance to performance in indie films, winning a few awards along the way.
The film’s emotional set pieces really get the audience engaged at a time where there is an increased amount of black shootings in the United States.
What works in The Birth of a Nation’s favour is the performances and story of the film where the theme is clearly pronounced throughout the whole story.
Although the film was well-written and acted, it has received some negativity for an alleged rape case involving actor Parker some 17 years ago and the depiction of a rape scene not found in any history records as the reason behind Turner leading a revolt.
No doubt, the film’s negative press will play a factor whether the the production receives any acknowledgement for awards. The studio will be hoping the film’s critics praise will overrule the bad negativity associated with the film.
In other news, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children grossed $28,87 million last weekend, which was enough to get it to the top of the box office.
As of this past Wednesday, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children grossed $34,73 million for a global haul of $79,86 million showing waning interest from cinema goers in Hollywood veteran Tim Burton directed films.
What helped the film were the acting performances of Eva Green as Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine and the hero Jacob Portman played by Asa Butterfield.
Deepwater Horizon opened to $20,22 million last weekend and as of Wednesday sat on $25,43 million with a global haul of $37,92 million. This was off a reported budget of $110 million proving the hard sell of an Oscar film.
However, the film does enjoy an 83% rating from international critic website Rotten Tomatoes.