*Spoiler Alert and Trigger Warning: This article contains spoilers about Netflix’s “Luckiest Girl Alive” and mentions topics including sexual assault and gun violence.
Netflix’s “Luckiest Girl Alive” is based on the 2015 novel written by Jessica Knoll about Ani FaNelli (Mila Kunis), a successful journalist and survivor of the biggest private school shooting in history which took place in 1999. Her life begins to get twisted as a survivor of the shooting and now congressman, Dean Barton (Alex Barone), accuses Ani of involvement with the shooting because her friends were the suspects. The truth is, Ani is a victim of rape and the victims of the shooting include the three of her abusers, Dean being the only one that survived. A director reaches out to her to speak on behalf of her innocence in a documentary, and when Ani finally agrees, her trauma is brought to the surface.
The fatal flaw of this film is the lack of trigger warnings. The transitions into childhood Ani (Chiara Aurelia) experiencing rape, gun violence and PTSD were practically nonexistent, so it went from a fairly peaceful scene to triggering moments almost instantaneously. I didn’t enjoy these parts of the film and had to fast forward on every rape scene. Even though the plot was easy to follow and made sense despite its vulgar moments, I believe the movie could have gone without the 1999 shooting in its entirety. The overall conflict in the movie is Ani being gaslit into believing she wasn’t raped by a big-time congressman (Dean) and his friends. I feel as though the school shooting was almost a subplot with extra victim blaming for no reason. It’s safe to say this movie is not a good watch for anyone sensitive to any of these subjects as parts of the film felt too real and the number of disturbing scenes crossed the line in my eyes.
Viewers watch Ani enter her “girl boss” era and I think her attitude towards everyone who doubted her was the only reason I finished the film. She makes her younger self proud by confronting the only surviving rapist from the school shooting, Dean. We also see her finally cut off her jerk of a fiance, Luke (Finn Wittrock) who was abusive and neglected Ani’s need for support because of her traumatic past as a survivor. She also got to show her mentally abusive mother (Connie Britton) who’s boss by releasing a showstopping article about the truth of 1999, something her mother always wanted to keep secret. I’m a huge fan of Connie Britton, but her character as a mother was disturbing and Finn Wittrock’s role as a victim-blaming fiance was even worse.
The plot of this movie is a recycled one, so it wasn’t super entertaining. A lot of the scenes reminded me of “Gone Girl” (2014), where the same type of determined feminist gets revenge on their abuser. And the scene where Ani can record Dean’s confession at his book signing is straight out of Season 2 of “American Horror Story” when Lana (Sarah Paulson) secretly records Thredson’s (Zachary Quinto) confession. For this reason, the movie seemed unoriginal to me and fairly predictable.
Mirrors were a perfect symbol in “Luckiest Girl Alive,” and sadly the only part of the film I thoroughly enjoyed. Since being a victim of sexual assault, Ani was never able to smile in a mirror or look in it without flashbacks to the incident. But over time, when she finally gets a sliver of justice, she can look into multiple mirrors and smile with a sigh of relief. Even though not every story about sexual assault has a happy ending like Ani’s, it was heartwarming for me to see her finally work her way through the years of pain and trauma.
In all honesty, the title of this movie is ridiculous. Just because Ani got her chance to exploit her rapist and survive a school shooting does not mean she’s lucky, and in my eyes, it’s the complete opposite. It almost makes the survivor’s arc feel glamorized, and I hate that. It’s also why many reviews have been extremely negative about “Luckiest Girl Alive,” saying that it’s extremely unrealistic and packed with triggering scenes for the entertainment and shock factor.
I now realize the film was in the #1 spot on Netflix for the wrong reasons, which upsets me because I do have to applaud Mila Kunis for pulling off such a serious role. She was able to successfully portray disorders like PTSD with her acting and radiate power through her voice in intense scenes like when she confronted Dean. I do commend Netflix for being able to come up with a wonderful cast and do their best with a story so tragic, but I just wasn’t a fan. If you are going to watch “Luckiest Girl Alive,” be prepared for the difficult scenes that come along with the powerful feminist tone.
“Luckiest Girl Alive” is available for streaming on Netflix.
By Amena Ahmed