On October 7, Paula Hawkins’ Gone Girl-lite mystery The Girl on the Train will drunkenly stumble into theaters, starring Emily Blunt as everyone’s favorite amateur detective/grim alcoholic/scary stalker. It moves the London-set book to New York, which presumably means a lot of changes beyond swapping London’s commuter trains for Metro-North. But the most important one is this: What is the main character going to drink instead of canned gin & tonics??!
This is very important. Readers know that canned G&Ts are basically the star of the book. Our narrator, a very British alcoholic, spends about half of the story drinking, drunk, or blacked out, almost always via drinking canned G&Ts. These little wonders make their entrance on page 3 (!!), and are probably the second-most-important character. Hawkins writes:
“The premixed gin and tonic fizzes up over the lip of the can as I bring it to my mouth and sip. Tangy and cold, the taste of my first-ever holiday with Tom . . . I take another sip, and another; the can’s already half empty, but it’s OK, I have three more in the plastic bag at my feet. It’s Friday, so I don’t have to worry about drinking on the train. TGIF. The fun starts here.”
But, the thing is, while these are technically available in America, no one drinks them. So, how have producers replaced this crucial plot element? I surveyed the options, and tried to predict what we might see Emily Blunt obsessively downing on a park bench as she freaks out about being unemployed.
TINY BOTTLES OF WHITE WINE
In a lot of ways this seems like the most logical choice. Sad single ladies and their wine is an inescapable film trope, so it makes sense in that way. But where would she be getting them? Is she stockpiling them from plane trips? Can you freak out in the middle of midtown and run to buy a travel bottle of zinfandel somewhere? I guess you could get one at a liquor store, but if you’re standing in a liquor store, and mentally prepared to drink illegally in a park in New York, would an airplane bottle of wine really be your choice? Also, our girl is supposed to be getting twisted on G&Ts, and you’d need to be downing a LOT more tiny wines to get anywhere close. Girl would need a laundry bag full, like Wino Santa. This seems like the frontrunner, but let’s keep looking.
You might think this was pretty much a one-to-one substitution for a canned G&T but it’s not, for one important reason: it doesn’t have any liquor in it. In the UK, Australia, and lots of other places, canned cocktails actually contain liquor. Smirnoff Ice—despite being made by vodka company Smirnoff and really looking like it might have vodka in it—does not. It’s a malt beverage, like Zima or Red Dog (a personal fave). So, in that sense, it’s not a good substitution at all. Also, again, “regular” people in America do not drink these.
This would be a super bold choice, and in a lot of ways would be a kind of logical substitution. It’s almost-sort-of-okay in small doses, especially for the kind of 30s Manhattan professional our narrator is supposed to be, but the sight of someone losing their mind doing it over and over and over is deeply upsetting. Also it can definitely make your life fall apart! Would require more secrecy than drinking, though, and a crucial plot-point of the book requires the narrator to be blacked out, something that doesn’t happen from doing cocaine. Also people tend to think drug addicts are somehow materially worse than alcoholics (spoiler! They aren’t!), so it might alienate the audience. Seems unlikely.
TALLBOYS OF BEER
This is the thing people actually drink on New York City’s commuter trains, whether they’re heading up to Tarrytown or over to Ronkonkoma: big ass beer cans, kept in a brown paper bag. They even sell these in a little stand next to the LIRR at Atlantic Terminal. But a canned G&T has a sort of budget class that a tallboy definitely does not. It’s a fake Birkin bag, plastic rims from Wal-Mart, designer knockoff sunglasses from Canal Street, Skinny Girl wine—something with pretensions to being something other than what it is (ie, gross). A tallboy is about as unpretentious as it gets.
NOVELTY HELMET WITH FULL SIZE BOTTLES OF RED WINE
This would be a great choice, and would really make the viewer feel that Blunt knows how to have fun, but is maybe overindulging a bit. Sets up a great interaction where she can promise her roommate she’s cleaned up her act, only to have this helmet come tumbling out of her closet, causing Blunt to desperately try to convince her that it’s a bicycle helmet (“I have taken up biking. . . for health,” she can pathetically lie). Possibly!
What is more American than a crippling addiction to food? Maybe the trailers for this movie have been so moody and vague because Emily Blunt actually gained 200 pounds for this part, and spends the whole thing greedily stuffing bags of Burger King Chicken Fries into her increasingly greasy face. In the crucial moment she’s not supposed to be able to remember, instead of being drunk, she could be desperately rooting through a full-size bag of Dorritos, looking for the very last crumbs, when it gets stuck on her head, obscuring her view. Charming, but a little sad. Perfect!
Emily Blunt is supposed to be playing a woman in her mid-30s, living in New York, and looking like Emily Blunt. If she were really that person, she would literally never stop talking to you about her exercise regimen. “Did I tell you I’m running a half-marathon?” she says, looking down from her standing desk. YES YOU LITERALLY TOLD ME 15 MINUTES AGO. Picture her scrounging up quarters from around her tiny bedroom to pay for one more SoulCycle class, then trying to bluff her way in when she can’t get the money together, then sobbing as she’s thrown out onto the street by a guy with blue Mohawk and a killer core when she can’t pay her bill.
Probably tiny white wines, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for coke!
Illustrations by Kevin Alvir