Mila Kunis started out as a child actress who rose to fame appearing as the ditzy Jackie Burkhart in That 70’s Show and voicing Meg Griffin on Family Guy. After that, she struggled to get her film career off the ground with some forgettable movies, such as American Psycho 2. But then, she was cast in Forgetting Sarah Marshall which lead to her role in the Oscar-winning Black Swan.
Since then, the 2010s her career rose as she was the lead in the Bad Moms movies as well as the first Ted and The Spy Who Dumped Me. Her latest role as Ani Fanelli in Luckiest Girl Alive, currently streaming on Netflix, proves that she’s an actress. To continue with this review, I must warn people that the movie does have scenes of rape and sexual assault as well as a plot hole involving a school shooting massacre. There’s no other way to review a movie like this. In fact, the title is ironic.
The movie opens focusing on young journalist Tiffani “Ani’ Fanelli, who is an editor at a glamourous magazine in New York City. She’s engaged to be married to Luke Harrison (Finn Wittrock) and planning an upcoming wedding on Nantucket Island. But there’s a dark secret from Ani’s past that is being brought back in the spotlight. Ani learns that a documentary filmmaker Aaron Wickersham (Dalmar Abuzeid) is focusing on a school shooting massacre where Ani survived.
But the story is deeper. For years, there has been speculation that Ani was connected to it as the killer was her friend, Arthur Finnerman (Thomas Barbusca). And Arthur specifically targeted three students at the school who had all raped Ani when she was only 14. Because it was a private school where some students (and their parents) had more pull than more common students like Ani (played by Chiara Aurelia as a teen) and Arthur, there really wasn’t much they could do as Ani became the target of bullying and harassment afterwards. Ani was questioned by the administration but when it came time to notify her mother, Dina (Connie Britton), she didn’t want to.
And for good reason. Dina plays the “Hero Complex” as Ani’s mother. Even as the stress of the wedding with the knowledge of the documentary, Dina still treats Ani as if she was a child. To make matters worse, one of her rapists, Dean Barton (Alex Bartone), was shot but not killed by Arthur. However, since he was paralyzed, he’s become a popular advocate for gun rights legislation. His family also had money and wealth. Dean also fed the speculation to the media that Ani was connected and a scene during the shooting hints why he would think that.
But as the stress and anxiety begins to mount with the pending wedding, Ani feels that neither Luke nor Dina want to be supportive. And this is kinda the problem. These type of characters have been portrayed before, but Luke and Dina are written in such a way that they’re so buffoonish. They really didn’t give Luke anything to do but to show up in a scene, grumble because his fiance is still hung on this, and argue with her. Ani is obviously suffering from severe trauma and as the wedding date approaches, you know it’s going to lead down a certain path I wish it didn’t take.
I didn’t really care for Dina either but I understood why she was put in the movie. When she finds out that Ani was raped at a party where there was underage drinking, Dina is more upset over the drinking. These events take place before MeToo and people still act like someone drinking at a party is an invitation to be sexually assaulted so they deserve it.
If anything else, Luckiest Girl Alive is a painful reminder of the double standard. We still view rapists as people lurking in the bushes and shadows. But they’re actually young boys at prep schools but yet they shouldn’t be treated as young boys. Having covered sexual assault cases myself, they seems to be this notion that the other person is lying. And three people from my high school were charged with raping a young woman on prom night in 2014, but nothing was done with it.
While the movie does have a rather uplifiting ending, I feel it’s really about the need for Ani to break away from her past. Kunis keeps the movie together despite some tropes and stereotypes used in other movies. There’s also no way to get over trauma Ani suffered. And yet she’s surrounded by people who didn’t want to deal with it because of how it affected their relationships.
It’s not a perfect movie, but Kunis makes it worth watching.
What do you think? Please comment.