Luckiest Girl Alive
A Phantom Like Wake Up Call
Mila Kunis’s acting in Luckiest Girl Alive is truly phantom-like. In some moments, she’s so physical in her portrayal of rage, it’s almost a jump scare. From the way, her arms line up and straighten so perfectly when she grabs people who provoke her to drop her eyelids just a little when she’s towering over someone to shoving multiple pieces of pizzas in her mouth when her heart starts to race. You never know just when her inner prime mantis is going to tackle a snake. In other moments, her gaze upon you is still, silent and bitter, lingering on the screen for several seconds as though she’s staring into you. Studying you, trying to decide whether or not she should trust you. Maybe she shouldn’t. Maybe you’re just like the rest of them. Or maybe you're one of the rare breeds. If you watch closely and without motive or judgment, you might find yourself in her favor.
Kunis’s Tiffany (Ani) Fanelli seemingly has it all. Recently engaged to a handsome man from a wealthy family, and a job as a successful writer at a men’s magazine, she’s on the verge of a life no one once thought she deserved (including herself). Her life sharply and violently jolts into a claustrophobic crumbling when a true-crime documentary shows up at her work for a story on a high school massacre she barely escaped from. As the circumstances surrounding the deceased shooter’s motives continue to be manipulated, Tiffany is forced to look back on the worst year of her life and examine everything leading up to that horrible day.
As universal as the issues Luckiest Girl Alive takes on are, Tiffany’s journey is very specific and Luckiest Girl Alive makes the flashbacks not feel like flashbacks. Nothing back then looks different or feels different to Tiffany and everything on display is grounded in her perspective - the right one.
Running into her former teacher and talking with him outside a restaurant was among the scene’s calmest moments. The memories of the past are too head-pounding to reflect on but too loud not to. He understood the gravity of the full truth well before she did and was defeated in his attempts to help back then. There’s such loneliness in their eyes in this scene as they’re both acknowledging that lost time can never be made up.
Sometimes, when you get to where you want to be or think you want to be, there is a boiling pot of resentment that you didn’t start out that way. Your life has been a certain way at a certain time can fill you with disgust and reflecting on it will prove too much to bear. To look back knowing there are a thousand things you’d have done differently is a kick in the face and a symbol of defeat. It’s really an identity crisis because someone who didn’t go through something so ugly isn’t who Tiffany is (Isn’t who a lot of us is).
It’s one thing not to define yourself by traumas but she’s living her life as though it never happened. She never really came to terms with what happened. I don’t know if there even is such a thing as coming to terms with something so horrific but there’s a level of acknowledgment of what something meant that she hasn’t looked at up close and personal. By the film's opening, she’s in denial. She’s in a deep sleep. It shouldn’t take the past crawling back to wake up but sometimes, it just does.
Tiffany: My pain is like carbon monoxide - odorless, colorless, tasteless and so fucking painful - but ONLY to me.
It’s knowing how other people will react to something that didn’t happen to them that keeps that state of internalizing purgatory alive. If people’s desire to ignore something is strong enough, they’ll do it. Some people just can’t put themselves first. The people that should never do it.
Kunis has done dramas before but she skyrocketed Luckiest Girl Alive out of its orbit. She knew this character instantly and I’m so excited to see what she does next. I don’t know if this was a method performance but it definitely looks like it. Kunis knows how to make the image look like it to those who see it as unimaginable. She’s a true visual performer who’s been at it long enough to know how to make every reaction look realistic. She knows how to play the game.
She understands that Tiffany stands her on her own because she’s an individual who knows too well that lucky people can’t be dragged to the truth. They have to see it for themselves. Luckiest Girl Alive will shake you and you’ll feel quite dizzy afterward. Whether you see it a bit more clearly is up to you.