‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ – Review

For a film that has so many things it wants to say, Luckiest Girl Alive comes across empty with not one thing to add to any timely conversation. 

Each year, it feels a dark and twisted novel centered around a female protagonist is adapted into a feature film. Netflix dropped the newest book to film adaptation, Luckiest Girl Alive, over the weekend. The film is written by Jessica Knoll, the author of the New York Times bestselling novel and directed by Mike Barker. While the novel was a dark and quick read, the film is just as dark, but a chore to get through. Luckiest Girl Alive, the novel, tackles many timely topics through flashbacks and present day leading up to a tell-all interview, yet the film adaptation struggles to make any sense of the themes Knoll wished to explore. While the novel feels witty and dark, the film is trying so hard to become a film about empowerment, losing all of the originality in the novel. 

Luckiest Girl Alive follows Ani Fanelli (Mila Kunis) an editor at a women’s magazine, as she is about to marry her fiancé Luke (Finn Wittrock) in a lavish ceremony in New York City. Luke’s family is extremely wealthy (summer in Nantucket wealthy) and they come from old money, while Ani does not come from any sort of wealth, a common topic explored in both the novel and the film. In the midst of preparing for her upcoming nuptials, Ani is approached by a documentarian, Aaron (Dalmar Abuzeid) as he is prepping to film a project regarding a school shooting that Ani survived 20 years prior. You can see Ani’s perfect life start to show cracks; her past trauma seeping into her tranquil-appearing life. Not only has Ani clearly not properly healed from the school shooting, rumors of her own involvement in the shooting come back to light. As if a school shooting and rumors of being involved in the planning of the shooting weren’t enough, Ani’s memories of a sexual assault from the same time come flooding back. There is a lot to unpack here for both Ani and the audience. 

While many book-to-film adaptations suffer when the novels are heavily filled with internal commentary, Luckiest Girl Alive starts out strong, blending the internal narration of Ani within the film. Not only is there a voiceover of her inner thoughts, but there are moments where we see her thoughts as hallucinations. However, it feels the core psychology of the novel, which may not have been perceived well post #MeToo, was cut to pieces and disrupts the tone and effectiveness of the internal thoughts of Ani. Although Luckiest Girl Alive is almost two hours long, the film somehow drags and doesn’t have enough time to cover everything needing to be discussed. The novel explores misogyny to victim blaming to slut shaming and yes, trauma from both sexual assault and a school shooting. Sure, the novel isn’t always successful, but it is from a flawed character’s point of view. The film struggles to have a point of view. While Ani is played by Kunis with a cold shell, as Ani is portrayed in the novel, her performance is full of cliches and never fully feels like a developed character. 

Luckiest Girl Alive struggles to balance any of its major plot points while rotating between the past and the present. The past feels utilized for shock value rather than providing backstory or reasoning behind how Ani is behaving in present day. The novel has more time to spend with TiffAni in high school and the events that shape her into present day Ani. While the film could never have enough time to explore everything outlined in the book, there could have been more focus on character development rather than showing, in graphic detail, multiple rape scenes from Ani’s high school past. Both the assault scenes and school shooting scenes are shown at great length, and it feels unnecessary and wrong to see them in such detail. 

While the novel explores a woman, who was not a “picture perfect victim” to the general public, coming to learn to speak her truth, the film adaptation of Luckiest Girl Alive switches to turning Ani into the “ideal” victim by the end and does not allow Ani to be a complicated woman who survived traumas. The film is so focused on having a twist and acting as if Ani is hiding something major that by the time we get to the end, it falls flat without a major twist to be seen. For a film that has so many things it wants to say, Luckiest Girl Alive comes across empty without a single thing to add to any timely conversation. 

Grade: D-

Oscars Prospects:
Likely: None
Should be Considered: None

Where to Watch: Netflix

Kenzie Vanunu
she/her @kenzvanunu
Lives in LA with her husband, daughter and dog. Misses Arclight, loves iced vanilla coffees.
Favorite Director: Darren Aronofsky
Sign: Capricorn

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