The Luckiest Girl Alive is a powerful film, and honestly one I don’t think my words are going to do justice to. I am going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible, which is going to be very difficult given that the plot is core to the characters journey.
Starring Mila Kunis as Ani FaNelli, the film is an adaptation of Jessica Knoll’s bestselling novel (screenplay written by her as well!), chronicling the story of a strong, independent New Yorker who’s life starts to unravel as her past forces her to confront the trauma buried within.
I didn’t know what to expect from this film going in, honestly. I haven’t read the novel, I knew a bit about the context, and I was excited to see a vibrant and talented cast.
I have left it feeling emotional and shaken, all in a good way.
Tackling difficult subject matter bluntly, but with respect
This film by no means sugar coats anything. You are exposed to difficult subject matter very starkly, one that I think is going to trigger some viewers.
Knoll has taken her story and created a gripping screenplay that has expertly been brought to the screen by director Mike Barker.
I feel there are moments in this film where we’d typically see some level of censorship in other productions; stuff that are chalked up as off-camera happenings. I am a little torn about how I feel about these scenes, as I feel they maybe a bit much for some to watch. At the same time, as a film and creative project, it actually gives respect to the character and her story. Difficult subject matter is always challenging to cover, and honestly, I feel the same way here.
Knoll has made a riveting screenplay, and one that will keep you grounded in the subject matter. Reflecting on her own experiences, you get a very personal sense from the words spoken, and that in turn really helps us the audience feel every word. Barker then reinforces that in how the film is crafted.
I love some of the stylistic elements. FaNelli narrating her thoughts actually is a vital creative element that will make a lot of sense towards the end of the film. In the beginning, you wonder about the style being used, but it makes sense as you watch the film until its conclusion.
Overall, this is a well crafted film that grabs your attention with a very vibrant character, and then slowly takes you on a complex and riveting journey down her very fragmented mind. It challenges your emotions in every way possible, and leaves you with a lot to think about.
Sharp, sophisticated performances
Kunis is in her element in this production. Her ability to grab your attention with words is skillful and brilliant, and I think is very vital to showcase the many sides to her character. I think there is a fragility in her performance that helps us understand Ani, important as her character is fragile, almost border-line going-to-shatter-if-pushed-too-hard fragile. Its gripping to see Kunis tackle her character with grace and sophistication, and is a major highlight of this film.
I think Ani’s young life is well captured by the young stars of the film, especially Chiara Aurelia who plays young Ani. From the good to the bad, I think Aurelia gives a professional and sophisticated performance, and one that does justice to Ani’s younger days. I think her scenes were some of the most difficult for me to watch, but those that are of pivotal importance.
However, I do want to take a minute to really appreciate the other cast members as well. There are many around Ani’s life that are pivotal to her journey, and I love that the casting team has chosen very talented actors to portray those characters. Whether its Connie Britton as Ani’s mom Dina; or Scoot McNairy as Andrew Larson, a former teacher’ or even Finn Wittrock as Luke Harrison, Ani’s patient yet confused fiancé; they are all wonderful characters. Having not read the book, their performances gave me the sense of how important Knoll considers them in Ani’s narrative. Two actors that made me feel this the most were Justine Lupe and Jennifer Beals. Playing friend and employer respectively, these wonderful artists for me played the ultimate support system; strong women who are holding their friend up, a core narrative of this story.
For me, the highlight was to see the wonderful Canadians that played pivotal characters in this story.
The incredibly talented Dalmar Abuzeid was a treat to watch as he becomes the catalyst to many happenings in Ani’s current life. Alexandra Beaton shares a few scenes in this film, but are key to Ani’s younger self. Having chatted with these actors before, I loved seeing their passion for film shine in this production. It also is double awesome to see the various Toronto skylines in various scenes, home to the production of this film.
Luckiest Girl Alive is a heavy film, and you are going to think about it well after you’ve watched it. It’s not meant to traumatize you, but very much help you understand trauma and the mindset for those who have experienced it. I would advise discretion if you are easily triggered, as this film will likely do so.
From an artistic lens, it does add itself to the many films that are tackling personal character stories and those adapted from books. However, this is a beautiful case study on character development that I think everyone should watch to understand. Kunis is a masterclass actress, and this film is yet another proof of that.
Luckiest Girl Alive streams exclusively on Netflix starting October 7, 2022.
Cover: Mila Kunis as Ani in ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’. Cr. Sabrina Lantos/Netflix © 2022.