The latest mystery thriller from Netflix is actually more than what it lets on. Starring Mila Kunis, Luckiest Girl Alive revolves around a woman who wants to take back her freedom after dealing with years of repressed trauma.
I went into watching Netflix’s Luckiest Girl Alive with zero background on it, only that it has recently become the talk of the town. It’s tagged under the Mystery/Drama genre, and the first few moments of the film were murderously ominous. Was this the tale of a woman leading a successful life who would burst at the seams and become unhinged? Or was it American Psycho-esque and she lives a double life murdering sleazy men at night?
Review: Netflix’s Luckiest Girl Alive is more than what it lets on
My speculations were proven wrong, but the film does a wonderful job of keeping you speculating, a testament to the screenplay written by Jessica Knoll, who also happens to be the original writer of the novel the film is based on. The movie centres around Mila Kunis’ Ani, short for TifAni (no joke), a name that competes with the whiteness of Jazlyn, Bryanna, Kaylynn, or other names with unnecessary Ys and double letters. From the get-go, Ani seems to live a perfect life: her fiancé played lacrosse in college i.e., he’s rich and successful, she’s a writer for a prestigious women’s magazine, and she takes crap from no one. Basically, she’s the epitome of a strong, powerful woman.
However, what’s also made clear is that Ani is obsessed with maintaining a picture-perfect persona, going as far as pretending she has an office to impress someone or scarfing down pizzas in ten seconds so that her fiancé doesn’t know she’s craving carbs. This whole maintenance, however, betrays something deeper and darker that she’s been keeping to herself all these years. The audience does get a glimpse behind the facade at times thanks to her inner monologue and quick flashes of her imagination, like when she fantasised about stabbing her fiancé. The film does a fantastic job of holding the cards close to its chest and slowly putting them down on the table until the audience sees the bigger picture.
Aside from keeping its secrets to keep the audience hooked, the film also subtly tests how judgmental the audience is. At the beginning of the movie, I was very much against everything Ani was doing and she seemed to be totally unhinged. But as more of her story was revealed, everything made sense to me. It was a sobering reminder that it was so easy to assume you have people figured out without knowing their full story.
I went from being annoyed with Ani to sympathising with her, and that’s largely thanks to her portrayal by Mila Kunis and Chiara Aurelia, who plays the younger version of the character. The movie hinges on their performances: while Kunis has to play an older Ani who has survived traumatic events but has ignored their effects, Aurelia has the equally challenging job of portraying a young Ani who has to live through said events. To the filmmakers’ credit, these events are done unexploitatively, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t disturbing.
More than being a mystery and drama, Luckiest Girl Alive is also a cautionary tale. Ani’s response to her trauma was to remake herself thinking that becoming untouchable would free her from pain. It didn’t. In fact, it only exacerbated it, even if years had passed. It wasn’t until she decided to face it that she was able not just to free herself but also help free others, even if she didn’t believe that initially.
It’s flawed and starts off a little slow, but Luckiest Girl Alive is more than just about a mystery being unravelled. It is, sadly, a portrayal of something survivors of abuse know all too well, and it also offers a nuance that other films rarely display when portraying them. It’s messy and it’s a daily wrestle with the pain and trauma but facing it and letting the truth out is worth it.
Watch Luckiest Girl Alive on Netflix
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong