‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ Film Review: Jessica Knoll’s Sharp Writing Inspires Gut-Wrenching Performances

Luckiest Girl Alive is a brilliantly dark and twisted story of the impact sexual assault has on a young woman. Based on the 2015 novel by Jessica Knoll, the Netflix feature-length film gets five stars from Showbiz Cheat Sheet for its sharp writing, shocking storytelling, and gut-wrenching performances that make this dark story more than palatable for audiences. 

Film review: 'Luckiest Girl Alive' gets five stars from Showbiz Cheat Sheet
‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ Gets 5 Stars From Showbiz Cheat Sheet

‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ is based on Jessica Knoll’s sexual assault 

Knoll’s debut novel, which landed at the top of The New York Times bestseller list almost instantly, centers around a successful young woman who combats the lingering trauma of a devastating sexual assault she experienced as a teenager. In reality, Knoll experienced a sexual assault herself. 

“I was encouraged by a lot of the top editors [at Cosmopolitan Magazine] who said that I had a great voice and that I should write a book,” Knoll said in a press statement from Netflix. “I knew I wanted to write about my own experiences, but under the protection of fiction because that felt like the safest way to do that at the time.” 

Andrew (Scoot McNairy) consoles a Young Ani (Chiara Aurelia) after her sexual assault in 'Luckiest Girl Alive'
Scoot McNairy as Andrew, Chiara Aurelia as Young Ani | Sabrina Lantos/Netflix

Knoll has previously recounted her sexual abuse for outlets like Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter and The Cut. Now, her story lives on in the Netflix drama. Knoll’s unflinching voice is honestly compelling in both translations. It makes sense — she insisted on writing the screenplay for the Netflix adaptation. As a result, Knoll had total control over the retelling of a traumatic experience so many women go through. 

Mila Kunis changed Ani FaNelli slightly for the Netflix film 

Luckiest Girl Alive differs slightly from the source material in the way star Mila Kunis portrays TifAni FaNelli. “Ani is a very tightly controlled person,” says Knoll. “Everything in her life has been meticulously crafted to present herself and her life in a certain way. A lot of that has to do with what she experienced.” 

Ani FaNelli (Mila Kunis) in 'Luckiest Girl Alive' from Netflix, which gets a five-star review from Showbiz Cheat Sheet
Mila Kunis as Ani in ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ | Sabrina Lantos/Netflix

After multiple classmates rape her, Ani’s peers shame her and blame her for her experience. She quickly falls from the ranks of popularity. Eventually, her fall from grace results in her classmates thinking she has more to do with a school shooting than she actually does.

As an adult, Ani does everything in her power to prevent people from saying anything bad about her. Underneath that picture-perfect exterior, though, is a teenage girl seeking vindication. 

Armed with that knowledge, Mila Kunis approached the role as if she were playing two characters. “When the draft came to me, I was immediately taken by how I could understand Ani’s reasoning,” Kunis said. “I wanted to dig deeper into her. I signed on with the idea of encouraging Jessica to rewrite certain aspects and lean into the psychological aspects of her character. Jessica was game, and that was the most exciting part for me.”

In this way, Kunis peels back the layers of Ani and shows audiences her internal and external dialogues. Both are vital to the storytelling — both are imperative in helping audiences side with this somewhat unreliable narrator.

Of course, Kunis’ performance is made more believable by Chiara Aurelia’s portrayal of young Ani. We only get glimpses of young Ani’s past, but they’re enough to paint the picture of her heartbreaking rise in popularity and eventual fall from grace.

Stream Luckiest Girl Alive starring Kunis, Aurelia, Finn Wittrock, Scoot McNairy, Jennifer Beals, and Connie Britton exclusively on Netflix. 

How to get help: In the U.S., call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. 

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