There’s a strong feeling of déjà vu that sets in as soon as “Luckiest Girl Alive” starts playing. Jessica Knoll adapted her own 2015 novel for the cinema, and the resulting film fits comfortably into the canon of post-“Gone Girl” novels.
The biting wit, the inversion of white middle-class aesthetics, the fear that something violent and evil lies beneath the cosy PSL and Pinterest atmosphere: all of them contribute to the overall unease of the piece. However, despite the fact that this film’s time has gone in the realm of mainstream thrillers and popular fiction, it still has some promise.
Luckiest Girl Alive Movie Review
The opening act of “Luckiest Girl Alive” is so lighthearted that it’s almost embarrassing. Knoll’s screenplay extensively relies on stilted voice-over narration to establish Ani’s status quo, digging through her own source material for thorough snippets that must have read considerably better on the page than they sounded coming from Mila Kunis’ mouth.
Mila Kunis plays as Ani Fanelli, a magazine journalist in New York whose hidden history resurfaces just as she’s about to tie the knot. A intriguing, albeit overblown, plot is complemented by a wonderful role for an underrated actress who rarely gets dramatic turns of the scale and weight of her comedy work.
Our first impression of Ani is that of a witty and likeable woman who expresses regret about the gap between her true self and the persona she presents to the world, while also hinting at a traumatic history through the use of jump cuts to abstracted imagery of violence.
While cutting up a pizza with a knife and fork, she boasts about how effectively she’s playing the role of wife-to-be to the ideal middle-aged beau, Luke Harrison (Finn Wittrock). Then, while he’s gone, she gorges herself with animal ferocity, before staging a spill she can blame on the waitress for when he comes back and finds his plate empty.
Her boss, Lolo (Jennifer Beals), pledges to take her to the New York Times once the deal is closed, despite the fact that she writes scandalous felatio tip-offs for a cosmopolitan newspaper called The Women’s Bible.
She has a deep-seated need to solidify herself as someone who is essential to someone credible, which is why Luke wants her to move to London with him and earn her MFA, rather than because she has always dreamed of being a journalist.
It’s the kind of respectability politics that sounds more at home in the opening minutes of a Hallmark holiday movie. But then, through flashbacks to her time at a private school where she narrowly escaped a mass shooting and the violent attack that preceded and complicated that later incident, Ani’s sad past begins to take shape.
We get a glimpse of why the sassy Tiffani Fanelli (younger Chiara Aurelia) wants to reinvent herself as the more carefree Ani Harrison (Connie Britton) and leave behind the harmful influences of her mother and her past.
A filmmaker seeks to recreate the disaster for the cameras when he and another victim, wheelchair-bound Dean Barton (Alex Barone), decide to run for government in a gun control campaign. Before we allow the charge stay in the viewer’s mind for too long, we realise that the pointing was a premature method to divert from Dean, one of Ani’s attackers. Dean had claimed for years that Ani helped plot the school massacre that left him unable to walk.
Kunis Explodes in Powerful Performance
Kunis explodes in this challenging role. In maturity, she developed a sharp wit and cunning veneer that allows her to endear herself to whomever she meets, so we have no choice but to embrace her as a charitable wind-up doll with limitless charisma.
She must also be realistic as the result of Aurelia’s clumsy, painful childhood, a life of remorse and self-flagellation that gives rise to this resolute tulpa who can stand up as an adult and protect the little girl in her when no one else will or can.
As Ani works to establish this unbreakable persona, she gradually gives up more and more of who she really is. Because she is torn between herself and the trophy husband, who only seems to love her when she makes it easy for him, she is unable to choose between the New York Times and the London Times.
She also feels conflicted about the fact that many of the victims were people she wanted dead for the horrors they had put her and her friends through, despite her obvious innocence in the shooting.
Unpacking the multiple tragedies of Ani’s life, with all of her inner turmoil and the ways in which the internal battle is hurting her relationships, takes more delicacy and attention than a film of such packedness can muster.