Luckiest Girl Alive tackles weighty subjects and reinforces its messages by eventually having Mila Kunis’s Ani look directly to camera to state them in case you weren’t listening. Based on a 2015 bestseller by Jessica Knoll, Mike Barker’s adaptation juggles two 1999 tragedies – the first is kept under wraps for some time. It leads to a school shooting in which Kunis’s younger self is suspected of participating. In the present day, one of the wounded parties confined to a wheelchair (Alex Barone) is monetizing such a narrative.
Ani is a talented writer penning witty relationship columns for a slightly trashy magazine. The work is noticed enough that she’s up for a gig at The New York Times. She’s engaged to Luke (Finn Wittrock), sweet and supportive and coming from money. We learn that status is important to Ani. Flashbacks (where Ani is played by Chiara Aurelia) show us a teenager attending a fancy private school. Unlike her peers, she’s not rich and her mom (Connie Britton) is constantly offering flawed advice on how to climb the societal ladder.
In addition to the story often shifting between the turn of the century and 2015, Kunis provides frequent voiceovers. Her biting inner monologue usually doesn’t match what she says out loud (expect in one humorous instance). Ani has learned to keep prior tragedies buried away. All of that is risked when a documentary filmmaker (Dalmar Abuzeid) finally convinces her to take part in his project. Its focus is to get to the bottom of everything that occurred when violence erupted in the halls. The acts of violation aren’t just unique to the shooters.
As mentioned, the screenplay (and book I assume) are told so that some crimes are slow rolled into big reveals. Perhaps it worked in novelistic form. It comes across as clunky in the adaptation and even a little cheap considering the seriousness of its themes. Characters are arbitrarily introduced like Ani’s kindly teacher (Scoot McNairy). He tends to pop up as the plot necessitates it.
Our lead strays far away from recent comedic roles and does a commendable job. Other players – like Britton as the boozy and conflicted mom – are saddled with one-note roles (that applies to Wittrock too). I wish the structure served its top actress and the others more smoothly. This meditation on trauma can feel too often like a rough draft.
** (out of four)