Luckiest Girl Alive. 2022.
Directed by Mike Barker.
Starring Mila Kunis, Finn Wittrock, Scoot McNairy, Chiara Aurelia, Thomas Barbusca, Justine Lupe, Alexandra Beaton, Dalmar Abuzeid, Alex Barone, Carson MacCormac, Jennifer Beals, Connie Britton, Gage Munroe, Nicole Huff, Thomas Barbusca, Isaac Kragten, Kylee Evans, Leah Pinsent, David Webster, Rebecca Ablack, and Angela Besharah.
A woman in New York, who seems to have things under control, is faced with a trauma that makes her life unravel.
Luckiest Girl Alive is a misguided Me Too tale that quickly goes off the rails and has no sense or sensitivity whatsoever in what it chooses to depict on-screen. Directed by Mike Barker (with Jessica Knoll performing the screenplay treatment for her novel), the film doesn’t decide too many ideas but has a tasteless combination of serious matters in a rape and a school shooting.
Ani FaNelli (Mila Kunis) was involved in both when she was a teenager (played by an impressive Chiara Aurelia in flashbacks, coming away unscathed regarding this disastrous narrative), hence the sarcastic moniker of luckiest girl alive. In the present day, Ani is a proud manipulator engaged to handsome and well-off Luke (Finn Wittrock, serviceable at playing the nice guy partner capable of instantaneously turning into a douchebag as his wife progressively comes into a sense of true identity and dares offer up a suggestion that goes against the way he foresees their collective future); she states multiple times across narration that she is like a windup doll skilled in telling anyone what they want to hear.
This way with words also includes a freelance writing gig educating women on how to please their partners (Ani admits that she is a sexual deviant, supposedly a traumatic response to her abusive past). She has curated the perfect life, except the voice inside hates everyone (one of the first images is a hallucination of stabbing her husband’s hand with a knife).
Ani was also once unhappy with her weight and large breast size; the former led to bullying, and the latter, according to her despicable mother, combined with her rebellious nature, is what led to her sexual assault (three times, and the movie feels compelled to show every instance). As an adult, she is now ashamed to eat food in front of her fiancé (scarfing down pizza when he goes to the bathroom) and has undergone a breast reduction.
Drawing from personal experiences is brave and noble, and it’s unquestionable that Jessica Knoll has poured complexity into this character. The idea of someone who was gang raped but goes on to settle writing about sex rather than chasing a dream of writing for the New York Times (or chasing after any attainable goal) is already enough material to write a movie around that eventually leads to empowering self-discovery and newfound can-do attitude. The same goes for watching a façade of a traumatized person that has yet to deal with the baggage gradually cracking.
Nevertheless, Ani is also confronted by a documentary filmmaker centered on a school shooting she went through, something she doesn’t want to discuss for understandable reasons and then some. The primary reason seems to be that one of her classmates, Dean Barton (Alex Barone), initially blamed her for conspiring with the shooter. Dean is also now in a wheelchair due to being shot in the spine.
And so Luckiest Girl Alive is littered with flashbacks detailing a rocky upbringing, terrible friend crowd, and repeated instances of abuse and trauma that don’t need to be shown on screen for the film to be effective. Again the mere thought of weaving a school shooting into the drama and then showing it (turning the movie into a thriller momentarily) is a stunningly tacky creative choice.
This story is so overcrowded with characters and plot points that it often feels like 15 movies in one or a catastrophe in distilling something like 13 Reasons Why into two hours. And that’s said without giving away any of the film’s major spoilers, which only continue to take the story in extreme directions with no nuance, depth, or sincerity.
So much of Luckiest Girl Alive ends up insulting, which is a shame because if you take the emotionally raw turns from Mila Kunis and Chiara Aurelia, refining the story into something much more focused and tighter, there would be a well-meaning tale of finally processing trauma, expressing anger, finding identity, and speaking up.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com