Review: "Luckiest Girl Alive"
This emotionally taxing film is likely to spark debate about the portrayal of both sexual and school violence and its repercussions, and Kunis' compelling lead performance drives that portrayal.
Kunis plays the main character of Luckiest Girl Alive, who calls herself a "victim" rather than a "survivor," as full of barely contained rage. This comes out in scenes where she loses control of her anger as well as through a viciously cynical voiceover.
Her inner monologue is full of self-shaming and name-calling, making her a character who is difficult to like until you come to understand what has made her this way (even then she's not exactly likeable, just more understandable).
Kunis was a good choice – she transforms here into a sharp-edged, intelligent ball of nerves – and Chiara Aurelia captures the same energy as her teen self.
But some of her cynicism comes across as excessive, like when she stuffs pizza into her mouth out of sight of her boyfriend after admitting she hasn't eaten lunch in six years. The idea is that hers is a carefully curated and performative life that obfuscates severe trauma bubbling under the surface. Her divided identities are depicted in a scene from the film where she is prepping for a TV interview and her image is reflected back at her in a diversity of different mirrors.
The tale is initially set up as a mystery, with hints that Kunis' Ani has committed violent acts herself in the past. Once it comes to light that as a high schooler she suffered both sexual violence and a deadly school shooting, the film begins weaving back and forth between her present and her tormented past, building up to a breakdown and a breakthrough.
It's hard not to find parallels between this story and real events, like the accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, #metoo revelations and calls for justice, and real school shootings (so often perpetrated by young men) like Columbine.
That's a lot to pack into one movie, perhaps undermining some of the intentions here (evident in Netflix's wannatalkaboutit initiative and a heavy-handed ‘everywoman' end scene).
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Image courtesy of Netflix.