Luckiest Girl Alive (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A woman in New York, who seems to have things under control, is faced with a trauma that makes her life unravel.

My Take – While there have been many films based on pressing issues of gender, bullying, peer pressure, sexual assault, and the attempt to fit in at any cost, there is no denying of the fact that these timely subjects will forever remain relevant. A factor skillfully displayed in this Netflix release which uses an original story to put forth key subjects that need to be discussed at length.

Adapted by writer Jessica Knoll from her own 2015 New York Times Bestseller of the same name, here, director Mike Barker (Best Laid Plans) tells a moving story in a cohesive manner because of its vulnerable script that brings contemporary concerns alive in a distressing yet thrilling film. The fact that it takes a while to unfold was another feather in its cap.

The 113 minute long film sets out to be some sort of a psychological thriller, along the lines of Gone Girl (2014), and then half way switches sides and ends up hitting you in too many ways to count.

Yes, although the blend of the fun side and the trauma around that character reduces the sort of impact it could have achieved, yet there still is enough intrigue throughout to sit through.

Sure, the overall product is flawed and doesn’t rise to such astronomic levels it could have, but the film is more than just about a mystery being unraveled. It is, sadly, a portrayal of something survivors of abuse know all too well, a chilling account of how society’s first reaction to such kind of assaults is always victim-shaming and how toxic masculinity continues to be celebrated.

It is accurately rated R as there are very intense scenes that further add to the significance of sharing the story.

Set in 2015, the story follows TifAni “Ani” Fanelli (Mila Kunis), a respected New York women’s magazine editor who seems to be living the life most women can only dream of. Engaged to get married to her boyfriend, Luke Harrison (Finn Wittrock), someone who doesn’t just have money but comes from it. And considering the socio-economic setting she is living in, Ani believes she has made it into an elite world and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay.

However, her perfect life is threatened when Aaron Wickersham (Dalmar Abuzeid), a documentary director, gets in touch requesting her to be a part of his film about the school shooting she survived as a teenager (Chiara Aurelia) back in 1999. Though she initially declines, her deep trauma begins to fester in when she finds out that her former classmate, Dean Barton (Alex Barone), who has now become a successful writer and advocate for gun control, has agreed to not only take part, but is also accusing her of being involved with the shooting.

I have to say, I went into watching the film with zero background on it, only that it had become the talk of the town when it came out a few weeks. And though it’s tagged under the Mystery/Drama genre, I had my fair share of the doubt during the first 30 minutes or so, because it started off as a typical rom com with a quirky protagonist.

Here, director Mike Barker introduces us to Ani in a very jovial way, and one might even wonder whether the film is about the idiosyncrasies of that character. The narrative certainly seems to be headed in another direction. But when the flashbacks start and Dean’s name is mentioned in the film, it pivots and becomes a film squarely about how Ani hasn’t been able to move on and that her offenders have gone scot-free.

Well, two of them are dead and the third is in a wheelchair, but her beef is with people dismissing her claims and believing someone above her in social status and with better connections. We gradually realize that what we felt as a quirk of that character has a connection with her experiences.

The film provides us an insight into the complicated reality that survivors endure on a daily basis. Flippant comments made by friends, family members, and strangers, rooted in their own fear and bias, become obvious when we view them through a victim’s lens. The way this film offers nearly every single nuanced judgment that people place on assault survivors is both dark and brilliant.

Though the trauma of that scenario is presented in a very affecting way, the steps towards Ani getting her vindication demanded a lot more intensity. Like the scene where she and her boyfriend begin to get physical, but Ani becomes uncomfortable as the gentle approach wasn’t working for her. Scenes like this one should have haunted the viewer. In establishing her helplessness and showing her empowerment, the film can’t achieve that dramatic high one would anticipate.

In the same vein, the plot of the film is based on the tragedies that Ani encountered, however, it is unclear to the viewer until the third half of the film how Ani and her classmates were truly involved in this horrific event. While it leaves watchers in the dark for a majority of the film, this strategy ends up leaving a heavy toll, an effect which may or may not have been the writer Jessica Knoll and director Mike Barker‘s intention.

Of course, it would have been hard to sympathize with Ani, if the portrayal of both Mila Kunis and Chiara Aurelia would have not been up to the mark. The film hinges on their performances: while Kunis has to play an older Ani who has survived traumatic events but has ignored their effects, Aurelia has the equally challenging job of portraying a young Ani who has to live through said events.

Thankfully, Mila Kunis shone throughout this film, delivering lines effectively and performing heavier scenes with a commendable skill. She surprises in both light-hearted and particularly tense scenes with the way she is able to embody the weight of her character’s past as the film progresses. Chiara Aurelia too effectively conveys Ani’s complex emotions and behaviors in many hard-to-watch scenes.

In supporting roles, Connie Britton, Finn Wittrock, Jennifer Beals, Scoot McNairy, Thomas Barbusca, Carson MacCormac, Dalmar Abuzeid, Alex Barone, and Justine Lupe are highly effective. On the whole, ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ is a disturbing, gripping watch that manages to be both impactful and entertaining.

Directed – 

Starring – Mila Kunis, Connie Britton, Jennifer Beals

Rated – R

Run Time – 113 minutes

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