By Analiese Vassallo
With an atypical plot and starring actress Mila Kunis in the mix, “Luckiest Girl Alive'' was destined for success. Be forewarned this two-hour mystery thriller holds an R rating for its portrayals of explicit language, underage substance use, violence, rape and other sexual innuendos. As the content warnings suggest there are evidently extremely serious issues exhibited through this script, which are appropriately addressed, though could serve as a trigger to viewers.
“Luckiest Girl Alive” was originally released on September 30, with its Netflix release on October 7. It was directed by Mike Barker, a British filmmaker known primarily for his film “Best Laid Plans,” debuting in 1999.
Kunis stars opposite Finn Wittrock, an actor featured on programs including “American Horror Story” and “All my Children.” Other main stars include Thomas Barbusca, Alex Barone and Justine Lupe. Kunis truly captivated the audience with her emotional performance as TifAni “Ani” Fanelli with gut-wrenching scenes she made seem all too real. In her quest to become Ani Harrison, Kunis’ character flashes back throughout the movie to her high school years as TifAni Fanelli, where she experiences extreme trauma in the form of violent acts towards her and other classmates.
The cinematography, lighting and effects amid transitional scenes not only make it feasible to distinguish between the present and past, but undeniably it added to the mood, emotion and overall storyline. The film carries an aptly serious aura, as it covers sensitive, yet regrettably relevant topics, including rape and a school shooting. It is respectable that the director, screenwriter and all involved parties did not embed humor to offset the deeply pressing matters presented, as it more precisely conveys the reality of these sorts of horrid events.
Combining a fitting tone and impeccable camera work with powerful, well-rounded performances by each of the actors made this film prosper that much more. There was never a debate for the viewer regarding any character's internal emotions, nor the reasoning behind their external actions towards other characters. As for Kunis, despite being the lead, this was certainly not her biggest role. However, it was undoubtedly a sensational addition to her career as it highlighted her range as an actress and ability to take over the screen. She surely set the bar for her cast, who all exceeded expectations and breathed life into their characters.
In a role that adds great range and esteem to his repertoire of films, Barone flourishes. His authentic portrayal of Dean Barton, a treacherous and calculating individual, leaves viewers almost vicariously hating Barone. The extremely accurate characterization makes it as if Barone isn’t acting but being filmed in his everyday life.
To add to the excellence, the delivery of lines and reactions from Wittrock are so spot-on with his character Luke that it once again feels like this was unscripted. The smaller, yet pivotal role of Arthur Finneman is a rollercoaster pulled seamlessly together by Barbusca, who gives his character depth and raw emotion. Finally as Nell Rutherford, Lupe could've fooled viewers as her and Kunis played an onscreen duo and supportive best friends to a tee. Casting directors Richard Hicks and David Rubin definitely earn some praise with top-notch choices that brought this film to life.
The concept and plot behind this film, as well as its name, did not originate solely as a cinematic piece; it was derived from a novel. Jessica Knoll, the original writer of the novel “Luckiest Girl Alive,” wrote it mainly as a work of fiction; however, it did encompass personal events from her past making it all the more meaningful. It is both felicitous and admirable that the film utilized exact quotations from the novel at points in which the protagonist faced unbearable tragedies and was encapsulated by large sums of emotion. It truly added to the credibility and engagement that would have been lacking without these words of experience.
However, while the movie was said to have thoroughly followed the major events of Knoll’s work, the ending was seemingly lost in translation making an overall intriguing film ultimately underwhelming. The final scenes are adequately close to the storyline; however, they leave unanswered questions, failing to fully develop the ending of the story. As this is a fairly new release it is uncertain whether there will be a sequel, or perhaps a series, but this definitely would be a suitable course of action given the common feeling of lingering questions among viewers. Taking in all the components that made this film the way it is, it’s safe to say this obtains four stars with an impending fifth star if a sequel makes its way to screens.