NOT OKAY (2022)
Release Date: 07/29/22 [Hulu]
Studio: Searchlight Pictures
"An ambitious young woman (Zoey Deutch) finds followers and fame when she poses as the survivor of a deadly attack, but she soon learns that online notoriety comes with a terrible price."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
It seems like you can't go a single day online anymore without scrolling across a new story about a person, company, or celebrity being accused of toxic behaviors such as misappropriation, racism, or harassment in all of its various forms. People learned to stand up and speak out against these abuses and behaviors, and our contemporary age of the internet and constant connection to it, only made these voices louder. So much so, that even an accusation founded or not, can be damning enough to be, what we now refer to as, "canceled". Quinn Shephards' Not Okay is rooted in this current timeline that has seen political correctness risen to a new level of anxiety. People should be accountable for their behaviors and words spouted, whether it be in-person or online, and social media has made it to where it can't be ignored. Not Okay may not encapsulate our modern time in the most pleasant light by enveloping its story in this current culture, but it's nonetheless a story worth telling even though it may be hard for people to watch. Before the film even begins, a trigger warning message is displayed on the screen. Get your tweeting fingers ready.
Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is a photo editor for a digital media pop culture website similar to Buzzfeed or Jezebel. She's also an aspiring writer. The film opens with a "rip the band-aid off " moment that immediately displays who Danni is as a person. Her desperation for online attention, or better yet, her lack of understanding of how traumatic events affects people personally. In this opening scene where Danni and her boss are discussing her problematic online posts, mentioning one specifically where she posted how she has "FOMO" about missing out on 9/11 due to being on a trip at the time. Shortly after this scene, Danni is star-struck by the tattooed and blonde-haired weed influencer Colin, played by Dylan O'Brien, entering the office puffing away on a vape. You can instantly tell that O'Brien is having a blast in this role and I am absolutely here for it. Out of frustration with her unsuccessful attempts to secure a writing gig for the company, Danni decides for a quick confidence boost she can at least appear to be a writer to her social media followers, not only that but that she is such a good writer she's been accepted to a writer's retreat in Paris. Through the use of photoshopped images of her in front of popular Paris landmarks, Danni is thrilled at the attention she receives from her fake trip, but when a terrorist bombing occurs in France IRL, she is thrust into a tough decision for herself. For most decent and sensible human beings, the answer to this situation should be obvious, but the online attention and notoriety are too great for Danni to pass up. While she initially struggles with the right and wrong thing to do—you know where this is heading. Nevertheless, this must be shown as it reveals to the audience that she has a moral compass even though she opts for the terrible decision.
When a film like Not Okay comes along that tackles this kind of sensitive and triggering subject, the balancing act that must be meticulously maintained is crucial so that the final product is not one-sided and monotonous. Not Okay presents a protagonist that is hard to like because of the choices she makes throughout the film and the damage in the aftermath caused to others. While the film understands the seriousness of its subject, it uplifts it by presenting it with cringe-worthy comedy and a razor-sharp satirical impression of modern times and influencer culture. Pointing out influencer cultures' absurdities not simply for comedic objectives but because it's indicative to Danni that what she was chasing for much of her adult life was not what it seemed. Throughout the film, Danni is haunted by the image of a faceless hooded man, which is reminiscent of the description of the man responsible for the Paris bombing, another way the story presents Danni being cognisant that her actions are harmful, which gets more prevalent as the film goes on. Even though you may not like Danni or condone her actions, the message the movie is delivering is important. Using other people's pain and traumatic experiences simply for clout-chasing purposes is horrible.
Although Danni Sanders is a character that is written intentionally to be unlikeable, it's easy to forget that people are more than the poor decisions they have made or make. What Not Okay does is find moments to add some shades of color into its protagonist's personality rather than present her as a black and white product of her conduct. Zoey Deutch's performance does most of the heavy lifting for this. The connections or bonds Danni forms from her newfound fame are real, with moments of genuineness instead of being solely manipulative. Even so, playing a character that is for the most part deplorable, a lot rides on the nuances of its actor. Zoey does a stellar job at molding all of Danni’s characteristics together and layering more humanity, humility, and emotion to them so that you can care about the character and want to continue to follow her journey. As difficult as that journey may be to watch unfold, even in a breezy 100-minute runtime, and the triggers that may be experienced, Deutch’s performance, the film's story, its cringe-style humor, and the pitch-perfect satirical depiction of gen-z millennials and our modern times, make it more than a worthwhile watch.