I am sometimes amazed how much money, time, and talent is used to create the most mundane and mediocre creative projects. Now, this is by no means a recent or new issue as there has always been vanity creative output since the very concept of commercial artistry was had. However, there does not even seem to be interest or vanity attached to several of these films of late. The most glaring, egregious example I can think of is Netflix’s The Gray Man but at least that one was just intended to be a huge, dumb action flick. A more unfortunate entry is when a film tries to have a social message or commentary within its utter “meh-ness” as an obvious attempt at elevation of material. Netflix’s more recent film Luckiest Girl Alive is one such production.
It is not a bad movie, or at least, it is not a badly made movie. There is talent present in the editing, cinematography, casting, etc. Mila Kunis is not phoning in her performance, and her skill is present on the screen. But much like her earliest works, her efforts are not matched by the story being told. Now, to be fair, perhaps the book the film is based on is actually very good and tells an engaging, logical, interesting story. However, the film adaptation of said book is a bit off in certain respects. The subject matter (sexual assault, rape, school shootings) the film addresses is important and can be triggering for many, so I would advise some level of caution when engaging with the movie. Yet, the execution of these stories leaves a lot to be desired and that is mostly due to Kunis’s character.
In the film, Kunis plays Ana Fanelli a calculating, methodical, arrogant, troubled woman from low means who had a traumatic experience as a young girl in school when she was raped by far more affluent and privileged classmates and then became one of the few survivors of the largest mass private school shooting. From those tragic events, Ana molds herself as what she believes the ideal woman is: a strong, educated, wealthy, influential woman in control of her future. However, Fanelli’s character and means of obtaining this identity are muddled and seemingly at odds. Ana Fanelli is a character in the vein of Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne though not as villainous or ambitious, and that is the issue.
Fanelli is a contrast of character traits. She both desires and derides the affluent lifestyle her former classmates and fiancé are a part of and that she can never be. She wishes to forget and move past her trauma while wanting to control and profit off of it. She is vicious and quick to anger though also soft and a damsel in need of salvation. Again, Kunis does good work in demonstrating these competing attributes, but the character and story always try to keep Fanelli on the side of the angels regardless of her actual actions, thoughts, or desires. Understandably, this is intentional because of the subject matter and character’s backstory, but it becomes muddled and messy as a result. Whereas Dunne was unequivocally a villain that the audience was entranced by and almost rooted for in spite of her acts, Fanelli comes off as undecided, confused character in need of therapy as opposed to opportunity. The film needed to make a choice of whether presenting her as the cold, calculating, take no prisoners she saw herself as or the victim in need of help and agency that she inevitably was. Toeing the line between the two ended up being a forgettable and unnecessary long story lost to the sea of other forgettable Netflix content.