LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE – Review by Martha K Baker

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Female as victim, with emphasis on rape, has served Hollywood well. While pretending to inveigh against such violence, these films have glamorized assault and added filmic battery with fragmented images of the victim. Thankfully, Luckiest Girl Alive is not that trite trope. The title is ironic. The multi-layered plot is trussed with conflicts.

Maybe Luckiest Girl Alive escapes this cliche because it is based on the novel by Jessica Knoll and, further, based on her own experiences of being bullied and raped and of harboring secrets. Knoll wrote the screenplay wherein the main character says one thing to her friends, another to the audience in a vocal version of a mockumentary. “I’m not to the manor born,” she admits to us, “but I do have a few secrets,” including “an edge.”

The titular character is TifAni FeNalli, which she nicked to Ani when she was a teenager. In 1999, her impossible mother sent her to a fancy school, sure that the girl will make good connections. Instead, Ani connects to a scrum of adolescent boys, intent on sousing amok through school. Meanwhile, Ani wins an award for her essay on Catcher in the Rye.

Fast forward: Ani’s snappy writing produces naughty headlines for articles in The Woman’s Bible. She wants to write for The New York Times. Her determination equals that of a suave documentarian making a film about a tragedy Ani witnessed.

Young-woman Ani is portrayed so believably by Chiara Aurelia as a fish flopping in preppy waters. Mila Kunis is outstanding. She carries career woman and, now, affianced Ani in all her PTSD complexity. Kunis handles scriptwriter Jessica Knoll’s sarcastic inner-monologues as well as the character’s sharp confrontations, especially the one with her fiancé, played by Finn Wittrock — and oh! that last one on Fifth Ave. Knoll’s words transition adroitly from book to script.

The large supporting cast for the high school and magazine years integrates well, especially Alex Barone and Carson MacCormac as Bart and Thomas Barbusca as Arthur. Jennifer Beals, 40 years after Flashdance, shines as Ani’s editor, and Connie Britton (White Lotus) adeptly plays Mother, the harridan from hades.

Director Mike Barker does not allow the many males to dominate more than they populate Ani’s story. Nor does Barker make the sexual assaults porny. The last 15 minutes of Luckiest Girl Alive tie a beautiful ribbon of retribution on this gift of a film.

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Martha K. Baker (Archived Contributor)

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.