Luckiest Girl Alive 2022 Movie Review
In 2015, TiffAni “Ani” Fanelli (Adult: Mila Kunis, Teen Chiara Aurella) seemingly is the picture of success as she’s writing for widely circulated periodical The Women’s Bible writing the most provocative and shared articles and shopping at Sak’s Fifth Avenue in New York in preparation for her wedding to wealthy heir Luke Harrison (Finn Wittrock), however when documentarian Aaron Wickersham (Dalmar Abuzeid) starts prepping a true crime documentary about an incident that Ani experienced in 1999 at her school, old accusations from classmate Dean Barton (adult: Alex Barone, teen: Carson MacCormac) re-emerge as Dean asserts Ani was culpable in the incident, but the real truth has haunted Ani and now threatens to unravel her life.
Luckiest Girl Alive is an adaptation of the 2015 novel of the same name by author Jessica Knoll who also writes the screenplay. Plans to adapt the novel to feature film stretch as far back as the book’s 2015 release when Lionsgate acquired the film rights with Reese Witherspoon set to produce the film, but this iteration ultimately never came to be. The adaptation regained traction in 2021 when it was announced Mila Kunis would star in and produce the film in association with Netflix with Mike Barker directing his first feature since 2007’s Butterfly on a wheel having focused primarily on TV work such as Broadchurch, Outlander, and The Handmaid’s Tale. With the premise and marketing as presented audiences are probably expecting something in the vain of The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn, or The Woman in the Window, and to a degree I suppose it’s kind of part of that same sub-genre of thrillers, but it’s also massively exploitative in its delivery as it tackles very charge thematic issues with the same glib attitude you typically see in an ABC prime time soap opera.
If there’s anything to complement in terms of the movie, it would be in the performances of Mila Kunis and Chiara Aurella who play the adult and teen versions of Ani Fanelli respectively. You buy them as differently aged versions of the same character and they both give committed performances of this character, especially Kunis who has to play into the psychological instability of her character with a number of reality blurring scenes. I also enjoyed Jennifer Beals’ portrayal as Ani’s boss Lolo, but she also seems like she’s playing in a different movie than this is as she has a delivery similar to what Calista Flockhart did in her role on the Supergirl TV show which is a big part of the underlying issues of tonal consistency throughout this movie.
Without getting into spoils, the marketing of this movie leaves out a crucial element of this story ripped from a real life tragedy (a school shooting just so you’re fully aware) and let’s just say the fact the flashbacks are set in 1999 is one of only a few details they take from this real world tragedy which when played side by side with some of the more glibly delivered socialite wine drinking scenes that feel like they escaped from Revenge or Desperate Housewives leaves you with the tonal feeling of somewhat sitting on the remote and shifting between mid-2000s prime-time ABC and the Oxygen network. The movie tackles issues related to lasting trauma, victim blaming, rape and various other topics but the handling of these subjects isn’t done with the greatest of care especially since they’re used as building blocks of what’s at its core a very pulpy revenge-tinged thriller. With something like this the trashiness is inherently part of the appeal and I know the book and the movie share the same screenwriter Jessica Knoll and the book did receive reasonably positive reviews so I’m not quite sure what differences (if any) exists between source material and adaptation. Assuming you can get past the very on the nose references to that real life event I mentioned you can maybe enjoy this on a pulpy level, because unlike last year’s Woman in the Window which was competent but dull, I was never bored by Luckiest Girl Alive as there was a certain “bad taste” factor to the events unfolding on screen that kept me watching to the end.
Given I’ve given something of a pass to things like 1974’s Death Wish, it’d be hypocritical of me to give Luckiest Girl Alive less than I gave that film (and frankly this is better made and more entertaining so it’s got that). I don’t know if there was a way to do this material respectfully because I don’t think that was on the movie’s mind when it was being made and it was more interested in just being disposable pulp with a real world connection. This even comes through to the ending which is a lot cleaner than you see this situation in real life (see the excellent miniseries Unbelievable for proof for that) so this does fall into more of a “wish fulfillment” type fantasy than any serious discussion of the topic. Take that for what you will, you can probably guess whether this movie’s for you.