Editor’s Note: Luckiest Girl Alive features many triggering topics, including sexual assault and gun violence.
When a book becomes a best-seller these days, it’s often followed by news that it has been optioned for film or television. So, it wasn’t too surprising then when the 2015 New York Times Bestseller Luckiest Girl Alive was optioned for film. Unfortunately, though, not every book is meant to be adapted in other forms of media. Luckiest Girl Alive seems to be one of those titles.
Luckiest Girl Alive is based on the novel of the same name by author Jessica Knoll. It tells the story of TifAni “Ani” FaNelli and her mysterious past at the prestigious Bradley School. After being bullied and humiliated during high school, Ani sought to reinvent herself in adulthood, crafting a perfect life with a notable job, an expensive wardrobe, and a handsome bluebloods fiancé. Except, she has a big secret that could easily destroy it all. In the Netflix adaptation of Luckiest Girl Alive, Mila Kunis stars as adult Ani and Chiara Aurelia (Cruel Summer) as young Ani. The movie switches back and forth between past and present as viewers slowly begin to learn more about the secret(s) that Ani is hiding from those around her.
Luckiest Girl Alive isn’t a film for everyone. The constant switching between past and present can be rather frustrating, and the narration isn’t much better. And it’s at no fault because of the cast – they do their best with the material provided to them, especially when it comes to Kunis. From anger to charm, Kunis perfects Ani’s character. Although Ani is often insufferable, Kunis is great and makes the film watchable. While the first hour admittedly drags, the final forty minutes or so manages to redeem itself. It’s not an easy watch given the subject matter. Sexual assault is something that occurs daily in our world and is often ignored despite victims coming forward. If there’s one thing Luckiest Girl Alive does correctly is it tries to capture the harsh reality victims often face.
The decision to have Knoll pen the screenplay for the film was probably both good and bad. Knoll knows her characters, and she knows Ani’s story better than anyone. Unfortunately, though, the movie does often feel bogged down. It’s one of those instances where having Knoll work with a more experienced screenwriter could’ve been beneficial. Director Mike Barker, who has directed episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Broadchurch, does a good job directing Luckiest Girl Alive, although there were some questionable choices made when it came to lingering on some of the more graphic scenes.
While Luckiest Girl Alive isn’t necessarily a bad film, it’s not exactly great either. Kunis deserves plenty of praise for her performance. She’s excellent in a role that could’ve otherwise been one note. The problem is Kunis can only carry the project so far; the script is uneven and the constant switching between past and present is frustrating. While it’s vital to understand Ani’s past before we can truly understand her as an adult, the transitions were not handled all that well and it often felt like a bad case of whiplash. Those that loved the book? Luckiest Girl Alive is a faithful adaptation thanks to Knoll. Those unfamiliar with the novel, however, might struggle to retain interest.