Netflix Originals are often hit-or-miss. While they did churn out movies and TV shows that became iconic (and deservedly so), the company also had its fair share of meh to downright-bad adaptations. Their latest mystery film, Luckiest Girl Alive, is, fortunately, not one of the latter.
Luckiest Girl Alive is a novel by American author Jessica Knoll. Published in 2015, it wasn’t long before her debut work became a New York Times Bestseller.
The story followed 28-year-old Ani who, at first glance, seemingly had everything in life—a stellar career as an editor in a women’s magazine, a doting, handsome fiancé who comes from an affluent family, and a beautiful apartment in New York City.
Ani is glamorous, and elegant, and carries herself well. She says the right things at the right time. But, as expected in stories like this, she harbors a dark secret.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Although she now goes by the name Ani, people in her hometown used to call her TifAni. As a teenager, she went through horrifying events that altered the very fiber of her being. First, she was assaulted by a group of boys from her own class. She initially sought help following the incident, but since the boys involved were both popular and rich, it was Ani who was bullied by her schoolmates. She eventually became a social pariah.
Not long after, she also became the victim of a school shooting. The other survivors pointed to her as a possible accomplice because not only did she know the two suspects but also because of how she interacted with them during the shooting.
Unlike the Book, It Was Fast-Paced
The book started a bit slow, whereas the film captured the audience’s attention from the get-go. Perhaps it had something to do with Mila Kunis playing the lead character. The A-list actress had always been captivating, but she was born to play Ani.
One of the scenes where she stood out was when Ani had her mask on and was the perfect, pleasant woman while the audience got a glimpse of what was really going on in her mind with her internal monologue. It was both creepy and impressive, especially during those times when her carefully curated facade almost slipped.
The big reveal wasn’t too explosive as there were bits and pieces shown whenever Ani had flashbacks. It was fairly easy to put the pieces together. Even so, the story didn’t feel like it was rushed.
Unlike the Book, Ani Was Likable – Kind Of
The thing about the book version of Ani is she always had something to say about other women—none of which was remotely nice. Book Ani often looked down on other women—their choice of hairstyle, clothing, and footwear. It didn’t matter if they were kind to Ani; in her world, everyone else was beneath her. Interestingly, the author had always been aware of this reaction toward Ani. She previously addressed it in an interview with The New York Times.
“The knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss Ani as vain and vapid,” Knoll said. “But when we reward women for showing their full range of humanity, warts and all, when we give their struggles weight, we allow for the possibility that their flaws and stories can endear, inspire and move us, just like those of men.”
In the film, however, people were more focused on what events transpired in her high school and less on her comments about her officemates. That was the good thing about the adaptation because it didn’t beat around the bush.
It Was Based on a True Story
One of the things that might shock viewers who aren’t familiar with the book is the fact that the entire story of Luckiest Girl Alive is partially based on Knoll’s personal experience when she was 15. Knoll revealed it a year after her book was released.
She even wrote a piece for Lenny Letter titled What I Know. Here is an excerpt:
“Like Ani, I sometimes feel like a wind-up doll. Turn my key and I will tell you what you want to hear. I will smile on cue. My anger is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It’s completely toxic.”
Yes, those were the same words Ani said when she finally confronted Dean Barton after his book signing event.
It’s a Must-Watch
As far as adaptations go, this was one of the good ones. Knoll herself changed the ending, and it was a great decision on her part. By the end of the film, the audience was 100% behind Ani. We didn’t just understand her struggles and how the events in her life shaped her but we also applauded her for her strength and tenacity.
Mila Kunis did a fantastic job.
Luckiest Girl Alive isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s good enough to spend your entire Friday night watching it.