How Netflix’s Luckiest Girl Alive Came to Be.
Ani FaNelli (Mila Kunis) sits in front of stained glass windows at the private and prestigious Bradley School in suburban Philadelphia, where she went to high school. She is nervous because she is talking to an independent documentary filmmaker about a school shooting that happened here 20 years ago and the accusations that went along with it.
The filmmaker tells her, “You’re lucky that your mother got you a lawyer and stood by you.” “They don’t all have that.”
Ani is quiet because she remembers a time when her mother didn’t believe what she said. “I hate you,” her mother says to her. “I didn’t raise you to be my daughter.”
She sees herself in the present moment. “Hmm. Yes. “You’re lucky,” she says, barely able to hold back her pain and anger. “This is the luckiest girl in the world.”
A movie based on the 2015 book of the same name, Luckiest Girl Alive, comes out on Netflix on Friday. Even though the story’s ending has changed, the important parts of it remain.
How to understand the book
Luckiest Girl Alive, a mystery book by Jessica Knoll, was a huge hit when it came out in 2015. It spent four months on the best-seller lists and sold more than 450,000 copies. The book is mostly made up, even though it is written in the first person. It tells the story of Ani Fanelli, who used to go by the name TifAni, and how she rose from the ashes of her traumatic teenage years like a phoenix and changed her life.
Knoll told the New York Times, “The first thing that comes to mind is that Ani is vain and shallow.” “But when we reward women for showing their full range of humanity, flaws and all, and when we give their struggles weight, we open up the possibility that their flaws and stories can endear, inspire, and move us, just like those of men.”
The book was similar to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which came out three years before. The main character wasn’t as important as what was true about her. Like Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive takes crime, gender, and class apart and puts them back together with a modern view of femininity.
“In Knoll’s knockout first novel, a woman’s carefully planned, perfect life slowly falls apart to show a dark side,” said the review in Publishers Weekly. “What makes this book stand out is that the author is able to hook the reader from the first page. As the secrets are revealed, the book becomes more and more interesting.”
What is her name?
Even though the book is fiction, it was partly based on the author’s own life. The public didn’t find out about this until a year after the book came out.
In Luckiest Girl Alive, Ani is raped by three different classmates one after the other before the shooting. All three boys deny it. (Later, her mother also doesn’t believe this is true, which makes it almost impossible for Ani to tell anyone about the crimes.)
In March 2016, Knoll wrote an essay called “What I Know” for the online feminist newsletter Lenny Letter. It was about how Ani’s gang rape was based on a traumatic event she went through when she was 15.
Knoll wrote, “My anger is carbon monoxide. It binds to pain, humiliation, and hurt, making them powerless.” “You would never guess how angry I am if you met me. I sometimes feel like a wind-up doll, just like Ani. If you turn my key, I’ll say what you want to hear. I’ll smile when told to. My anger has no smell, no color, and no taste. It’s very dangerous.”
In the movie, Ani says these lines almost word for word when she finally faces one of the men who raped her. “Do you know what makes me different from someone like you, Dean?” she asks with anger in her voice. “I’m as mad as carbon monoxide. It has no smell, no taste, no color, and is very dangerous. But just me. See, I don’t lash out at anyone but myself when I’m angry.”
After reading the essay, many people took to social media to show support for Knoll and thank her for speaking out. Even though the author had never been in a school shooting, the details of the rape scene came from his or her own pain.
“I had been taught not to talk about it for so long that it never occurred to me to do so,” Knoll told the New York Times. “I want people to feel like they can talk about it and don’t need to be embarrassed about it.”
How Luckiest Girl Alive’s ending is different from the book
Knoll turned the novel into a movie herself, which isn’t always what happens when an author’s work is picked up by a film company. But the movie’s ending is very different from the book’s.
After Ani finally breaks up with her fiancé, who was a symbol of the wealthy upper class she had worked so hard to join, she gets a job at the New York Times Magazine, publishes an essay similar to the one she wrote for Lenny Letter (but this time in the magazine), and takes the subway, which used to give her PTSD.
On the subway, she hears women talking about her essay. The voices seem to be coming from the people around her on the train. “A guy I thought was my friend also beat me up,” says one. “Your story gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to tell mine.”
The 28-year-old woman takes her story to Good Morning America, where she talks about it in an interview. “I’m hearing from women who have never told their stories, women who have carried this terrible thing with them alone for 38 years,” Ani says. “I just hope that no one ever has to go through that again.” “I hope that people will feel compelled to tell their stories, talk about what happened to them, and know that they have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“It’s very meta that it’s a fictional story and a fictional character, but there are even more parts that are based on my real life,” Knoll told Entertainment Weekly about the changes to the adaptation. “I like that we talked about the year after I wrote the book and my essay, how people responded, and how I went on a TV show to talk about it.”
Knoll changed the ending of the movie to make it more like her own life. Mila Kunis, who plays Ani with a haunted determination, helped her do this. The actor and the author worked together to make the ending something that made people feel like they were a part of something.
“I know the ending is controversial, but I think that’s what makes this movie so good. Kunis told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s not a cookie-cutter movie, and not everyone sees it the same way.” “A lot of people didn’t like it, but I fought so hard for it to stay. I’m glad we won this battle because it’s so important.”