'The Luckiest Girl Alive': 6 Differences Between the Book and the Movie and the Major Plotline That's Missing

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Luckiest Girl Alive
Netflix

Spoilers Ahead: Please do not continue reading if you haven't watched Luckiest Girl Alive

Luckiest Girl Alive, the movie based on the Jessica Knoll's novel of the same name, premiered on Netflix Friday, and readers of the book are already weighing in on the big differences between the book and the film.

Starring Mila Kunis, the film tells the story of TifAni "Ani" FaNelli, a New York woman who appears to have it all, from the sought-after job at a glossy magazine to the dream Nantucket wedding. Ani's perfect life is threatened when a crime documentary director interviews her about a "shocking incident" that took place at her prestigious high school when she was a teenager. As a result, Ani is forced to confront the truth about what actually happened.

While the movie has the makings of a Girl on the Train-esque thriller, true fans of the book know that there are major differences between the Netflix adaptation and the novel it is based on.

ET spoke with Kunis ahead of the film's release about tackling some of Luckiest Girl Alive's most difficult scenes, which include grappling with a school shooting and a sexual assault.

"I mean, I don't know if I'm gonna sound like a sociopath, but it wasn't that hard," Kunis said of getting into character. "I have a very healthy relationship when it comes to acting. I don't live and breathe it when I come home. I've always said this: who I am and what I do are two very different things."

"Understanding the why of the character is always the easiest way in," she continued. "And I guess I reverse engineered it, so, I went like, 'How did she end up here?' These are the incidents that happened. Can't control those incidents. You can't fault for those incidents. You have to forgive yourself for those incidents -- that is the film. So, for me to do it, I think I approached it in an oddly logical way, and then allowed the emotions to then take over."

While there are always going to be differences between a book and its screen counterpart, in honor of the film's release, ET is breaking down the biggest differences between the Luckiest Girl Alive book and the film.

Ani's Backstory Is Missing

In the book, we learn that Ani went to a private school, Mount St. Teresa. It was there, with two of her friends, that she got in trouble for smoking marijuana, prompting her transfer to Bradley, a prestigious public school on Philadelphia's Main Line. She makes friends with Arthur and "The Shark" there, before getting in with the cool crowd, inching her way to popularity before being taken advantage of by a group of boys, spiraling her and her high school experience slowly but surely out of control. Her relationship with her mom and father -- both strained in the book, is hardly captured. Her father isn't even a character in the film. The things that contribute to Ani wanting to fit in and change, the attempts she makes at doing so, like her dying her dark hair blonde -- another effort to create this new life at Bradley -- just aren't there.

Documentary Takes Center Stage

In the book, Ani has already been presented with the opportunity to do the documentary and is determined to do so, despite her fiancé, Luke Harrison's, apprehensions. While he would much rather her move on from her past traumas, Ani is adamant about telling her side of the story and clearing her name. In the film, it appears Ani has to be coerced by the documentary filmmakers into participating in the project. She seems to be at a tug-of-war with them, having conversations with the filmmakers throughout the movie as opposed to having those conversations with Luke, who is her biggest adversary when it comes to her participating in the doc. In the film, he's supportive of her being a part of the project and she even toys with the idea of the two of them moving to London for Luke's job, two things that drive a wedge between the couple in the novel, as their wedding day nears.

Dean Participating in the Doc Is No Surprise

The participation of Dean Barton in the doc -- one of the three teens who sexually assaulted Ani and was involved in the school shooting --  comes as a huge surprise in the book, showing up near the tail end as Ani finally gets some semblance of closure over what happens to her, not just with Dean, but during the shooting. As we learn in the book, and is briefly touched on in the film, Dean accuses Ani of being somehow in on the shooting. In the film, it is revealed that Dean will be participating in the project, but he doesn't give an apology to Ani like she got, although forced, in the book. He instead tells her to not bring up anything that happened and brushes her off, proving he's just as rude and entitled as he was in high school. Ani records their conversation and uses it to tell her story to the world, taking back her narrative, whereas in the book, the conversation is caught on tape, but is there to provide more of a vindication for Ani and not something she is releasing to the world to get revenge.

Arthur Doesn't Feel Far Off From One of the Cool Kids

In the book, Arthur, Ani's first friend, and one of the two boys behind the school shooting that killed a handful of students and rocked the PA suburb, was described as severely overweight. He was a bit of a "nerd," had a crassness that jumped off the page and a pair of glasses he was always trying to push back up onto his face. In the movie, he's more like the indie, aloof type you'd see on Euphoria. He seems less than tortured and just a touch angry, but the backstory that led to him taking part in such a heinous act wasn't fleshed out, and neither was his relationship with Ani, which developed into a much closer friendship -- often based off the mutual hatred of their classmates -- after Ani's assault. Ani taking that framed picture of Arthur and his dad isn't even a part of the story -- a right she tried to wrong years later when meeting with Arthur's mother for the doc.

It's also important to note that Ben, who initiated the shooting with Arthur, was never seen in the book until the shooting. His story was mentioned, and readers learned about how he had been bullied out of the school and rumored to be battling with the trauma he faced while there at a treatment center. Outside of that, he was not present again until the shooting. In the movie, he seemed to be part of Ani's group, one of Arthur's friends who got upset with his classmates, but didn't really have a large role there either.

Mr. Larson

This is perhaps the biggest plotline missing from the movie, and the biggest glaring difference to readers of the novel when watching the film. Almost every single thing about Ani's relationship with Mr. Larson in the book and the film are different. In the book, we see Ani reconnect with her former teacher during a dinner with Luke. We see a sort of tension build up that leads them to spend more time together as they both prepare to share their stories in the upcoming documentary. We see a relationship between them now, years later, start to develop, one based on Ani's longtime crush on her teacher, who was just a few years her senior. We also see the relationship shift and morph and even cross the line when they are both back at Bradley for the documentary. In the film, she and Luke have dinner with Mr. Larson and his wife -- they realize who one another are, and they briefly touch on the past, but this relationship, which is at the center of Ani revisiting her past, is really absent in the film. Yes, we do see him help her after her assault -- though in the book, that's after the second incident between her and Dean, which was left out of the film. Mr. Larson coming to her aid is a quick moment, rather than something to show how much he cared for her at the time.

Ani's Ending With Luke

In the film, we see Ani nearly make it to the altar with Luke, but just as she's about to go through with it, she finds out that he got rid of one of her Bradly mementos: a framed picture of Arthur and his father, which Ani stole out of spite during a fight between the two -- their last real interaction before the shooting. It was after admitting that he got rid of it, after it broke during a drug-filled night out with friends, that Ani realized how little he cared about her past and how much he wanted her to get over it and move on. Realizing he did not accept all of her, Ani made the difficult decision to break up with him and give up this "perfect life" she curated for herself, and go at it on her own, trauma and all.

In the movie, Ani walks out on the documentary, takes her recording from Dean with her, and pens a tell-all about her assault for The New York Times magazine, exposing Dean and the Main Line's golden boys to the world. Just as they are about to get married, Ani's best friend, Nell, whispers something in her ear, and it's then that we see Ani having a conversation with Luke, in which she tells him about her exposé. He is adamantly against it, and it's in that moment that she chooses her story, her career and her life over the one she could've had with Luke.

Ani is still triumphant in both endings, but for different reasons, and while she may not be the "luckiest" girl alive, she emerges changed, ready to give up the idea that creating a perfect life will erase the traumas she endured as a teen.

Luckiest Girl Alive hit theaters Sept. 30 is currently streaming on Netflix.

For more on the film, check out the video below.

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