Directed by Mike Barker, Netflix’s thriller film ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ revolves around Ani Fanelli, a successful New York-based journalist who works in a magazine for women. Ani is accused of being involved in a school shooting by her former schoolmate Dean Barton. Ani, who was gang-raped by Dean and two of his friends, tries to find a way to deal with the accusation and the traumas associated with the horrifying gang rape. Inspired by the 2022 film’s realistic portrayal of Ani’s struggles and resilience, we have found out whether the Mila Kunis-starrer has real-life connections. Well, let us share our findings!
Is Luckiest Girl Alive Based on a True Story or a Book?
‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ is partially based on a true story. The Mike Barker directorial is a film adaptation of Jessica Knoll’s eponymous novel. The novel, like the film, follows Ani’s struggles with the traumatic gang rape and school shooting. Although a significant part of the novel and film are fictional, the particular storyline that involves Ani’s gang rape is based on Jessica Knoll’s own experience as a teenage girl. After the publication of the source novel, Knoll shared her real-life experience through an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. As per the personal essay, Knoll was raped by three unnamed boys at the age of 15 during a party like Ani was raped in the novel and film.
However, Knoll was never able to come out as a rape survivor to the people around her. According to the writer, nobody “called it rape.” “Like Ani, the only way I knew to survive was to laugh loudly at my rapists’ jokes, speak softly to the mean girls, and focus on chiseling my tunnel out of there,” she wrote in the Lenny Letter essay. Like her protagonist, Knoll also ended up in New York City with “the right wardrobe, a glamorous job, and a ring on my finger before the age of 28,” as per the same essay. Like Ani works for The Women’s Bible, Knoll worked for Cosmopolitan. Still, she couldn’t escape from the horrors of her experience. “The first person to tell me I was gang-raped was a therapist, seven years after the fact,” Knoll added.
‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ materialized when Knoll wanted relief from her real-life experience. “I always felt this burning need to get this story off my chest somehow, some way,” the author told EW. Having said that, the novel or the film isn’t entirely based on Knoll’s life. That’s also the reason why Knoll insists that the book is “not a memoir or even a roman à clef.” The storyline of the school shooting is fictional. Still, Knoll wrote the same realistically, reminding us of the several school shootings that happened in the country. Without limiting the narrative to her real-life experience, Knoll succeeds in exploring the challenges teenage students face, which pave the way for tragic occurrences like school shootings.
Even though the film is an adaptation, changes were brought to the screenplay, written by Knoll herself. While the book ends with a confession, the film progresses beyond the same. In real life, after the publication of Knoll’s Lenny Letter essay, several people who had gone through similar experiences reached out to her, which influenced Knoll and Mila Kunis, who plays Ani, to conceive a new ending. “At some point I do remember saying how when I wrote my essay for Lenny Letter that I was just inundated with messages from women sharing their stories, and that unlocked something in us [Knoll and Kunis] where we were like, maybe there’s a way to use that to shape our ending,” Knoll added to EW.
By the end of the film, Ani’s journey does resemble the journey Knoll had, especially after the publication of her Lenny Letter essay. “It’s very meta that it’s a fictional story, a fictional character, but there are even more elements that are inspired by my real life,” Knoll told EW in the same interview. “I like that we looked at the year that followed me writing the book and writing my essay and the reaction to it and going on a TV show to talk about it. I liked that we embedded that into the movie because I think it makes for a more epic journey that Ani goes on,” the writer added.