“Luckiest Girl Alive,” a film that has been described as “tragedy porn,” is first of all not for kids. The protagonist is a big-city powerhouse type of woman who reminds people that she attained what is known as a “figure” by skipping lunch for six years. New York Times reviewer Amy Nicholson says that the character Ani “wears success like a bulletproof vest” and…
[…] has achieved a trifecta of status symbols: a prestigious education (acquired via scholarships), a slim body (acquired via an eating disorder), and a posh fiancé (acquired via emotional suppression).
It all began with a novel by Jessica Knoll. In the book, speaking of her upcoming wedding, Ani tells a friend she is going “Full ano,” meaning “full anorexic,” because size 2 is just too elephantine to be endured. At one point she says, “Petite is what they call short fat girls. I should know: I used to be one.” As an adult, she spends $1,200 a month on fitness training, a habit that could indicate an extremist personality.
But there is more to Ani’s story.
Flashbacks recall her teen years, when she was, in fact, not a short fat girl. Okay, at one point a high school boy calls her a “wide load,” but any female might be targeted with such a remark by a callous male who hopes to make her feel bad about herself, because negative attention is better than none. There are other glimpses of her childhood and youth and (although her alleged former obesity is not a visible theme) mental health professionals will draw their own conclusions.
Ani’s weight problem is all in her mind, planted there by her mother. The maternal psychological warfare caused her to develop body dysmorphia and an eating disorder. As a grownup, she is both a survivor who has created an ostensibly perfect life for herself, and a victim haunted by ghosts from the past. Novelist Knoll told the press that she did not intend the character to “qualify as a good, pure victim,” and eventually, the viewer finds out why. It has to do with horrific events in the past, which we won’t go into here.
Recall how, in the drug world, a familiar cliche is the desperate user crawling around searching between carpet fibers for a few molecules of cocaine. In “Luckiest Girl Alive,” a great moment beautifully illustrates addiction. In this iconic scene, Ani and her future husband finish up a restaurant meal. He asks the server for a takeout box and leaves for the restroom. In an astonishing tour-de-force, Ani wolfs down the remaining pizza slices. She then compounds the deception by telling her beloved that the waitress spilled soda on the pizza — embellishing the lie with a detail that it also landed on Ani’s skirt.
What a perfect illustration of addictive behavior! No doubt this character rationalizes to herself that she is lying only to protect her fiancé. There is no point in hurting him by revealing information he doesn’t really need to know right now. Some day, when she’s better, she’ll tell them and they will laugh about it.
Part of addiction is that people get hooked on the stories they tell themselves and others. They become enamored of their own cleverness and resourcefulness, and learn to enjoy inventing an alternative reality and tricking people, even their nearest and dearest. Especially them.
No doubt Ani has convinced herself that she is doing the right thing by shielding the man from the truth, at least temporarily. In fact, if he knew the favor she is doing him by hiding the harsh truth, he would actually be grateful. Addicts can talk themselves into anything.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll,” TheLiteraryPhoenix.com 07/18/18
Source: “Mila Kunis confronts dark truths new Netflix film ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’,” Cleveland.com. 10/05/22
Image by Photography Montreal/Public Domain