Luckiest Girl Alive Reviews
Director: Mike Barker
Screenplay: Jessica Knoll
Producers: Mila Kunis, Bruna Papandrea, Erik Feig, Lucy Kitada, Jeanne Snow
Distributed by: Netflix
Based on: Luckiest Girl Alive; by Jessica Knoll
Stars: Mila Kunis, Chiara Aurelia, Finn Wittrock
About Mike Barker
Mike Barker (born 29 November 1965) is a British film director. His 2003 film To Kill a King was entered into the 25th Moscow International Film Festival.
About Mila Kunis
Milena Markovna "Mila" Kunis (born August 14, 1983) is an actress from the United States. Kunis, who was born in Chernivtsi and raised in Los Angeles, began playing Jackie Burkhart on the Fox television series That '70s Show (1998-2006) when she was 14 years old. She has been the voice of Meg Gryphon on the Fox animated sitcom Family Guy since 1999.
Kunis made her feature film debut in the 2008 romance comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Her work in the psychological thriller Black Swan (2010) earned her the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress, as well as nominations for the SAG Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Other notable films in her career include the action films Max Payne (2008) and The Book of Eli (2010), the romantic comedy Friends with Benefits (2011), the fantasy film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) as the Wicked Witch of the West, and the comedies Ted (2012), Bad Moms (2016), and A Bad Moms Christmas (2017).
About Bruna Papandrea
Bruna Papandrea AM (born 1971) is an Australian film and television producer and the creator of Made Up Stories Productions. Prior to Made Up Stories, Papandrea and Reese Witherspoon co-founded the production business Pacific Standard.
About Erik Feig
Erik Feig is a film executive and producer from the United States. Picturestart was established in May 2019 with financing from Warner Bros., Endeavour Content, and Bron Studios, as well as access to Scholastic Corporation's intellectual property. He was the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group's co-president and Summit Entertainment's president. He has produced, supervised, and directed Academy Award-winning films such as La La Land and The Hurt Locker, as well as book adaptations and films aimed at young audiences such as The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games series, Divergent series, Red series, and Step Up series. The New York Times reports that "Feig has built a reputation among book authors for cinematic adaptations."
About Chiara Aurelia
Chiara Aurelia de Braconier d'Alphen (born September 13, 2002) is an actress from the United States. She debuted as a young actress in Gerald's Game (2017) and Back Roads (2018). In the Freeform adolescent drama Cruel Summer (2021), she played Jeanette Turner.
About Finn Wittrock
Finn Wittrock (born Peter L. Wittrock Jr. on October 28, 1984) is an American actor and screenwriter who began his career with guest parts on several television shows. He made his feature debut in 2004 with Halloweentown High before making a comeback in 2010 with Twelve. He was a regular in the soap opera All My Children from 2009 until 2011, while also performing in various theatrical performances, after studying theatre at The Juilliard School. In 2011, he appeared in Tony Kushner's Off-Broadway production The Illusion, and in 2012, he made his Broadway debut as Happy Loman in Mike Nichols' revival of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman.
In 2014, he was recognised for his appearances in the films The Normal Heart, Noah, and Unbroken, and he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal as Dandy Mott in the FX series American Horror Story: Freak Show. In 2015, he played model Tristan Duffy and actor Rudolph Valentino in American Horror Story: Hotel, and he co-starred in the dramedy film The Big Short. Wittrock appeared as Jether Polk in American Horror Story: Roanoke in 2016 and as Greg in Damien Chazelle's La La Land. In 2018, he won a second Emmy nomination for his role as murder victim Jeffrey Trail in the FX crime drama series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
Wittrock appeared as serial killer Edmund Tolleson in Ryan Murphy's seventh Netflix series Ratched (2020).
Review of the Movie
More than two decades have passed since the horrific Columbine high school massacre that shocked the globe. While these traumatic incidents continue to occur with increasing frequency and an entire generation of children have grown up in their wake, Hollywood has discovered a new setting for films dealing with residual high school trauma. Every humane, nuanced film like "The Fallout," it seems, is followed by something predatory like "The Desperate Hour."
Unfortunately, the most recent of these flicks, "Luckiest Girl Alive," falls into the latter category. Based on Jessica Knoll's book of the same name, for which she also serves as screenwriter, the film not only dramatises a school massacre in poor taste, but it also exploits rape trauma in the name of female boss feminism.
With a tone reminiscent of "Gone Girl," the film centres on the seemingly flawless life of Ani (Mila Kunis), a writer for The Woman's Bible, a glossy women's magazine. She's written "1,500 stories about how to blow a blow job," but what she truly wants is to work at the New York Times Magazine and be "someone people can respect." Ani is engaged to Luke (Finn Wittrock, given nothing to do), an old money scion who is more of a checkbox for Ani's objective of unassailable social validity than anything else.
Her drive to be the most unrivaledly wealthy person dates back to her high school days. Ani (Chiara Aurelia), a scholarship student at an elite prep school in Philadelphia, is a survivor of the "deadliest private school shooting in U.S. history." The fact that this massacre occurred in 1999 (the same year as Columbine) and the film's reveal of who the culprits were is one of several tremendously tasteless judgements it makes, which is quite a distinction given that the entire thing is made up of tasteless decisions.
Through flashbacks and Ani's narration (which is haphazardly deployed throughout as her cynical inner thoughts, an interview for a documentary, and the copy for a piece she writes during the film's denouement), we learn that one of the survivors, now a gun reform activist, claims that Ani was in on the shooting?but also that this same survivor was one of three classmates who gang-raped Ani at a school dance after party just weeks before the shooting. Ani's goal is to reach the top of the social ladder and then give her side of the tale in order to win the he-said-she-said battle.
Despite the gruesome nature of the material and Mike Barker's harsh blocking of the rape sequence, Aurelia does an excellent job of depicting Ani's anguish and struggle during the rape, uncertainty immediately afterwards, and eventual unwillingness to report due to internalised shame. If only the elder Ani who portrayed Kunis had been given as much leeway. Instead, her PTSD is displayed as hamfisted visions of blood, stabbing her fiance (whose elite social status constantly reminds her of her abusers), and her angry inner thoughts.
Ani is also appropriately enraged with her mother Dina (Connie Britton) for actions exposed gradually through flashbacks. However, her rage is largely directed at her mother's lower social position. Ani's wedding gown is from Saks Fifth Avenue (the one on Fifth Avenue! ), but she tells her wealthy acquaintances that her mother shops at T.J. Maxx. Even the film makes fun of Dina as she tries to fit into the upper echelon world her daughter now occupies, saddling her with absurdly high shoes and lines about "Say Yes to the Dress" and poorly articulated Italian.
Even as an adolescent, Ani's mother's financial predicament, as well as her striver's attitude, are always in the back of her mind. Dina's motive for enrolling her daughter in a private school in the first place was to put her in the company of wealthy men. Dina blames Ani for breaking her alcohol rules when this strategy leads to her assault. It's evident that Ani learned as a child that affluent males may do whatever they want and get away with it, unless she levels the playing field. Where there may have been a class critique, there is instead an aspirational yearning to be among the elites. As if only wealthy men are capable of inappropriate behaviour.
It's also unclear what type of writer Ani aspired to be before taking on the "skanky" beat at this women's magazine, as her employer LoLo (Jennifer Beals) refers to it. Her ardent desire to get her writing published in an old institution like the New York Times stems from the same place as her want to marry into an old family so that people know they don't just "have money, they came from money." Again, there is a missed opportunity to go deeper into class and power dynamics, as well as gender dynamics in the media sector.
After being absent for the majority of the film, Beals reappears and gives Ani a pep talk about "authenticity" and the significance of exposing everyone in her life who didn't support her as a teen. This forces her to finally relate her story in her own words. Ordinarily, this would be a triumphant moment in a film, but it's at this point that you realise "Luckiest Girl Alive" has exploited both school shootings and rape trauma for a self-actualization narrative that ultimately ends with Ani finding value not in the release of her repressed emotions through this writing, but in the flimsy achievement of viral fame.
Sure, Ani was a victim, but so were all the other children whose lives were lost in the shooting or were forever impacted by the trauma of its aftermath. But the film is so preoccupied with Ani's suffering that it almost seems to justify the murders of the other children (it certainly delights in depicting their deaths in gory detail). In the final scene, the traumas of rape victims and those affected by gun violence are pitted against one other for the nation's attention and actionable change.
A flashback to a classroom scenario in which Ani's sympathetic English teacher Mr. Larson (an underutilised Scoot McNairy) complements her interpretation of Holden Caulfield as an untrustworthy narrator hints that the filmmakers want us to regard Ani as equally untrustworthy, having centred herself into this story. Is this to say that the film's restricted picture of competing tragedies is purely due to the events being shown through Ani's skewed point of view? Maybe, but that doesn't make the use of a school shooting as a backdrop for her personal journey any less heartless.