Content warning: This article contains mentions of rape and school shootings.
“Luckiest Girl Alive” is the newest original thriller to hit the Netflix canon, starring Mila Kunis in a role unlike anything we’ve ever seen her in before.
On September 30, this film hit select theaters across the nation before its streaming release on October 7. The movie is based on the 2015 New York Times bestseller of the same name and is the debut novel of author Jessica Knoll, who later wrote the screenplay for the movie.
This chilling and brutally honest tale follows the life of TifAni Fanelli, better known as Ani, a chic and mysterious bride-to-be as she plans her future with her debonair fiancee and her career as a writer for an esteemed women’s based magazine. All the while, Ani is internally battling the reality of her traumatic past.
The story bounces back and forth between an adult Ani (Kunis) in 2015 New York City and her adolescent years as she begins attending the prestigious Brentley School, an establishment full of wealthy socialite children.
As a young Ani (Chiara Aurelia) begins at Brentley, the economic and social divide between her and some of her other classmates becomes increasingly clear, and she finds solace in the friendship of two outsiders, Arthur and Ben, who find the other students in the school entitled, privileged and, beyond anything else, cruel.
After being invited to a party by some of the more popular kids in school, Ani finds herself the victim of gang rape, a horrifying experience that is majorly downplayed by the faculty at the school, keeping Ani silent while the boys who committed this atrocity remained supreme on the social hierarchy with seemingly no consequences.
Upon sharing what happened with Arthur and Ben, Ani is encouraged to come forward and expose the boys for their wrongdoings and for the people they truly are, which she declines to do. Days later, Arthur and Ben committed a mass school shooting, killing many students including some of the boys who raped Ani, which some saw as an act of revenge, believing that she herself had something to do with the crime.
Ani built herself a life beyond the tragedy and shame of her childhood, working tirelessly to ensure that no one would think of her in the light that her peers did then. These peers include one of Ani’s rapists, Dean Barton, who after being paralyzed in the shooting, would spend the rest of his life insinuating that Ani was an accomplice to the ordeal.
The rest of the film follows Ani’s struggle in dealing with her past and moving forward with the lavish life she made for herself. When she makes the decision to be a part of a documentary being made about the shooting, Ani gives herself a chance to tell her truth and give her the redemption she always deserved.
When the documentary goes awry and Ani, at last, frees herself from the chains of her own expectations, she not only confronts Barton about her rape and his lies but also comes forward with her own personal essay telling her side of the story, titled “I Was A Victim Too.”
I was personally a huge fan of this film, despite the mixed critical reviews. The film received 45 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, yet it earned a 74 percent audience score. That seems to be the general consensus for the movie, and while I can understand some of the more technical issues critics may have had, this movie felt like a better representation of modern-day problems than most films we’ve seen in recent years.
"Luckiest Girl Alive" tackles several very difficult and sensitive topics that feel more pertinent in today’s society than ever, like gun violence, sexual assault and wealth disparity, among others. Despite having so many areas to cover, the writing felt incredibly authentic and handled these issues with a sense of nuance that I haven’t seen in other dramas. There were some smaller storylines that crowded the story a bit and could have been done without, yet they didn’t distract too much from the overall objective of the plot.
Kunis gave what I saw as a career-defining performance, something akin to her work in “Black Swan,” but in this case, she was the driving force of this production. When discussing the role, Kunis noted how “there’s the face the person is trying to put forth, and there’s the real human being” in an interview with Netflix.
Kunis expertly balanced both sides of this character while documenting very prevalent problems. She provided the audience with a deeply dark, real and moving performance as Ani, showcasing her widely ranged talent. When the film began, my friends and I pondered whether Kunis could pull off such a psychologically intense role, and we were seriously proven wrong.
This film was unbelievably poignant about life today, as well as the female experience. Above all else, it showed a side to Kunis that makes me eager to see what project she takes on next.