Not Okay starts by warning you that the protagonist is not likable. The film starts by ensuring that disclaimer is valid when Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) expresses regrets about being away during 9/11 as she felt like she was missing in a major event. “I didn’t even know anyone who died,” she laments much to the horror of her boss. When she can’t figure out why she isn’t getting the attention she deserves, she fakes a trip to Paris to try and gain more social media cred. However, when tragedy strikes Paris she exploits the coincidence to become a viral sensation. She even uses real trauma survivor Rowan (Mia Isaac) to escalate her fame. And while Rowan brings out a better side of Danni, sometimes it is too late to redeem previously poor choices.
You may think seeing a film about a girl whose dream is to be a social media influencer would be torture. But writer-director Quinn Shephard is so precise and nuanced in her craft, that you go from wanting to banish Danni, to rooting for her despite her terrible decisions. Shepherd wisely lets you see the inevitable downfall at the beginning, which helps you get through the initial disgust as you know she is going to get her due, but you end up wishing for redemption as you go along on the journey.
The movie also limits the amount of time focused on influencer-culture. This lets the film say what it needs to say through the focus of Zoey Deutch’s excellent performance. And let’s be honest, we all know the dark side of being focused on likes and shares. The message of the film comes through plot and not retreading on tired warnings about the dangers of social media.
Dylan O’Brien, plays Colin, the object of Danni’s affection. He is also the one character that is even less likable than Danni. Despite his repugnant personality, you get brief glimpses through his facade that shows that internet culture is a funglass mirror reflecting back on reality. He is reprehensible, but still rich enough that you want to see the movie how he became that way as well.
Mia Isaac’s performance as someone who is trying to cope with tragedy, process betrayal, and be a leader, all at the same time, showcases her bright future. Through her fear and her power, she ends up making the bringing home the bigger point of the film in a powerful way. She is called on to convey a lot without saying a word, and she does so masterfully.
While the film is poignant in its message, it is also downright funny. There are laugh out loud moments as well as hidden gems that may want you to have the pause button handy so you can capture some of the “blink and you’ll miss it” zingers. And while some of the characters have moments of comedic buffoonery, there is enough truth in their characterization to also make their stupidity feel sad.
For those that may be turned off by the thought of a movie about influencers, that ends up not being the point. Sometimes people make bad decisions and while we should strive for forgiveness, it doesn’t mean that what they did was justifiable, excusable, or okay.
Luckily for us, Not Okay, is not okay — it is excellent. You can catch Not Okay when it starts streaming on Hulu July 29, 2022.