The Story Behind Netflix’s Luckiest Woman Alive


Ani fingers her engagement ring on the pier, pondering in a light blue dress

Ani fingers her engagement ring on the pier, pondering in a lightweight blue gown

Mila Kunis as Ani in ‘Luckiest Woman Alive’ Credit score – Sabrina Lantos—Netflix

Ani FaNelli (Mila Kunis) sits in entrance of stained glass home windows in her former highschool, the non-public and prestigious Bradley Faculty in suburban Philadelphia. She’s on edge, speaking with an impartial documentary filmmaker a few college capturing that unfolded right here 20 years in the past—and the accusations surrounding it.

“You’re fortunate you’ve gotten a mom who bought you a lawyer and supported you,” the filmmaker tells her. “Not everybody has that.”

Ani is silent, recalling a reminiscence of her mom failing to consider her model of occasions. “You disgust me,” her mom hisses. “You aren’t the daughter that I raised.”

She flashes again to the current. “Hmm. Sure. Very fortunate,” she responds, barely containing her ache and anger. “Luckiest lady alive proper right here.”

Luckiest Woman Alive, an adaptation of a 2015 e-book by the identical title, releases on Netflix on Friday. Its ending has modified, however the highly effective core of the story persists.

What to know concerning the novel

Writer Jessica Knoll’s thriller novel Luckiest Woman Alive discovered resounding success upon its publication in 2015, spending 4 months on the best-seller lists and promoting greater than 450,000 copies. Written within the first particular person, the e-book itself is predominantly fictional. It tells the story of Ani Fanelli, previously generally known as TifAni, and her phoenix-like rise and reinvention from the traumatic ashes of her teenage years.

“The knee-jerk response is to dismiss Ani as useless and vapid,” Knoll informed the New York Instances. “However after we reward ladies for displaying their full vary of humanity, warts and all, after we give their struggles weight, we permit for the likelihood that their flaws and tales can endear, encourage and transfer us, similar to these of males.”

The novel nervous much less concerning the likeability of its protagonist than her fact, drawing comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Woman, which got here out three years prior. Like Gone Woman, Luckiest Woman Alive dissects crime, gender, and sophistication, reassembling femininity via a up to date lens.

“One girl’s rigorously orchestrated, excellent life slowly cracks to disclose a darkish underbelly in Knoll’s knockout debut novel,” learn the overview in Publishers Weekly. “What units this novel aside is the writer’s capacity to snare the reader from web page one, setting the tone for a totally enthralling learn because the secrets and techniques are revealed.”

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Who’s Jessica Knoll?

Though the e-book is fiction, it was additionally partially primarily based on writer Jessica Knoll’s private expertise—a indisputable fact that the general public didn’t study till a 12 months after the e-book’s launch.

Within the lead-up to the capturing in Luckiest Woman Alive, Ani experiences rape by three separate classmates consecutively, which all three boys deny. (Later, her mom additionally rejects this actuality, making it practically inconceivable for Ani to report the crimes.)

In March 2016, Knoll wrote an essay for the web feminist publication Lenny Letter, titled What I Know, about the truth that Ani’s gang rape was primarily based on her personal traumatic expertise at age 15.

“My anger is carbon monoxide, binding to ache, humiliation, and harm, rendering them powerless,” Knoll wrote. “You’ll by no means know if you met me how indignant I’m. Like Ani, I typically really feel like a wind-up doll. Flip my key and I’ll inform you what you need to hear. I’ll smile on cue. My anger is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It’s utterly poisonous.”

Within the movie, Ani recites these strains nearly phrase for phrase, spitting them out as she lastly confronts one in all her rapists. “Are you aware the distinction between me and somebody such as you, Dean?” she asks, seething. “My anger is like carbon monoxide. It’s odorless, tasteless, colorless, and utterly poisonous. However solely to me. See, I don’t take my anger out on anybody aside from my f–cking self.”

After the essay, readers flooded social media with messages of assist and because of Knoll for coming ahead. Whereas the writer didn’t expertise a college capturing firsthand, the damning particulars of the rape scene got here from private ache.

“I used to be so conditioned to not discuss it that it didn’t even happen to me to be forthcoming,” Knoll informed the New York Instances. “I need to make individuals really feel like they will discuss it, like they don’t must be ashamed of it.”

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How the ending Luckiest Woman Alive departs from the novel

The liberation of sharing her story inspired Knoll to adapt the novel right into a film herself—not at all times typical for authors when their work is optioned. However the movie diverges from the novel in a single key place: the ending.

After Ani finally leaves her fiancé—an emblem of the luxury higher crust she labored so exhausting to assimilate into—she goes on to take a job on the New York Instances Journal, publish an essay à la the one in Lenny Letter (though this time within the journal), and take the subway—a mode of transportation that previously gave her PTSD.

On the subway, she is enveloped by the voices of girls’s feedback on her essay, seemingly coming from the on a regular basis individuals round her on the practice. “I used to be additionally assaulted by a man I believed was a buddy,” says one. “Listening to your story provides me hope that someday I can inform mine too.”

The 28-year-old brings her account to Good Morning America, the place she’s interviewed concerning the essay. “I’m listening to from ladies who’ve by no means shared their tales, from ladies who’ve carried this horrible factor with them alone for 38 years, and I simply hope that nobody has to ever try this once more,” Ani says. “I hope that individuals really feel compelled to share their tales, to speak about what occurred to them, and to know that you don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”

“It’s very meta that it’s a fictional story, a fictional character, however there are much more parts which are impressed by my actual life,” Knoll informed Leisure Weekly of the modifications to the difference. “I like that we appeared on the 12 months that adopted me writing the e-book and writing my essay and the response to it and occurring a TV present to speak about it.”

Whereas Knoll did change the ending of the movie to make it extra true to her personal life, she was aided in doing so by Mila Kunis, who performs Ani with a haunted tenacity. The actor and the writer labored collectively to form the ending into one thing that felt communal.

“I do know the ending is polarizing, which is what I believe makes this film so fascinating. It’s not cookie cutter, and never all people experiences this film the identical manner,” Kunis informed Leisure Weekly. “Lots of people didn’t prefer it, however I fought so exhausting for it to remain in. I’m actually glad that we gained this battle as a result of it’s so highly effective.”


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