LONDON: The tried-and-tested format of “perfect life undone by trauma revealed via flashback” has become Netflix’s stock-in-trade of late – to varying degrees of success. The streaming platform is peppered with polished, high-quality movies and series that chronicle the hidden depths of supposedly idyllic lives, gradually revealed to be built on foundations of repressed suffering. And so it is with “Luckiest Girl Alive,” adapted from Jessica Knoll’s 2015 novel of the same name, and starring Mila Kunis as Tiffani ‘Ani’ Fanelli, a glamorous New York journalist on the verge of marrying a handsome, wealthy man from a good (and by that, we can deduce, rich) family.
Director Mike Barker lets the audience know from the very beginning that something is not quite right – when picking out knives for their wedding registry, Ani hallucinates them dripping with blood, right before she binges a pizza out of sight of her fiancé. So when a documentarian approaches Ani about an event from her past, it’s no great shock to learn that the driven and fiercely independent young woman who appears to have a perfect life, is instead harboring some hidden demons.
Chiara Aurelia, as a young Ani, is tremendous – not to mention brave – in her portrayal of a teenager subjected to a horrific ordeal. Kunis, too, deftly treads the line between an acerbic ice queen and a traumatized woman simply trying to keep it together.
Of the supporting cast, Scoot McNairy and Justine Lupe (“Succession”) stand out. And you can see Barker (who counts “The Sandman” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” among his recent credits) trying his best to keep the intrigue alive after the full extent of Ani’s backstory has been revealed.
But while Ani’s story is brutally uncomfortable to watch, the ancillary commentary on societal depravity of both 2015’s New York and the private high-school clique of the flashbacks feels at once heavy handed and untargeted – it’s unclear who the audience should be most mad at, other than simply…everyone. It makes for a tough watch, without asking anything more than the most superficial of questions as to why.